1/28/18: Breathing and bracing

1/28/18: Breathing and bracing
Have you ever considered the value of a full exhale? Often, when we are instructed to breathe, we think about the inhale, but the exhale is really what allows us to re-organize the way we are holding ourselves. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, causing the entire self to feel a little bit calmer, and allows deep stabilizing muscles to coordinate a little bit differently.

I was teaching a workshop yesterday, and one of the participants was struggling in a hands and knees position. She was holding herself tensely, with the understanding that she needed to stabilize herself. The way she did it was by bracing, using as much muscular effort as possible.

Not surprisingly, when she tried to move in that position, she found it very difficult. A tense structure doesn’t have much give. Instead of the structure supporting movement, it resisted it.

When she was instructed to exhale fully, her structure changed. She no longer braced to hold herself in a hands and knees. Instead of holding herself rigidly, she had a little bit of give. When she tried to move, the rest of her structure responded, supporting the effort of the movement.

Sometimes, high amounts of tension are necessary. When I go to lift a heavy weight, for example, I need to establish a high level of tension so I don’t buckle under the load. I should still be breathing, but my strategy should meet the demands of the task. But when I lift a hand while in a hands and knees position, I don’t need to brace. I should be able to breathe smoothly and softly, allowing the structure to support the movement.

If you find yourself bracing during tasks that don’t require a lot of effort, ask yourself if you can take a long exhale. See if that helps you soften. The ability to move fluidly starts with the breath.