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Why Do I Need to Learn About Breathing?

I came across a clip from biomechanist Katy Bowman this week in which she was being interviewed about kids and movement. She said (paraphrased) that "homework isn't optional, good food isn't optional, why is movement optional?" Good point Katy.

Scrabble letters intersect to spell Inhale exhale repeat
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I would argue that better breathing also isn't optional. The thing is, even if you decided you don't want to learn about breathing, you're still doing it. You inhale and exhale at least 20,000 times each day. I often see posts and conversations about the proper hip hinge or where your shoulders should be in downward dog. These are all interesting and sometimes important conversations, but it's entirely possible that you could go the rest of your life without ever striking a down dog again, which might seem like a sad or unlikely prospect for you, but it's a possibility. However, you will assuredly inhale again in just a few seconds, and again, and again..... and again, for the rest of your life. When we are continuously engaged in an action, one that is autonomic, but also most certainly is influenced by the mind and can be consciously manipulated, it's likely a good idea to investigate what's happening.


The mechanics of your breathing can change the shape of your face, can prevent or contribute to hernias (including hiatal hernias), participate in the movement of fluids in the body (blood, lymph), aid in digestion, and can give your immune system a boost. Breathing mechanics can also change the shape of your torso, and have been used in the treatment of scoliosis. The nervous system is also highly attuned to the mechanics of breathing and changes in breathing can shift you from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state (or the other way around).


And then there's the chemistry of breathing. I've said a lot about this over the years, but I'll summarise again. Breathing interacts with every cell, every organ, every system in your body, through the chemistry of metabolism. It's far more complex from moment-to-moment than we can consciously monitor, which is why our autonomic system is designed to take care of this. But our habits of breathing, which can be shaped by our histories, our environments, choices we make, can change how the autonomic system measures out our breaths.


And if you've had Covid-19 and are dealing with long haul COVID (which up to 40% of those who have contracted COVID are managing), or if you have a condition that affects your breathing, you'll understand better than most how important good breathing is.


I hope that you are able to take a few moments today, connect with your breath, feel the joy of some good breathing, maybe even investigate what's happening with your breath. Like Katie said, it's not optional.

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