Take a breath!

We come in to this world and our first sound comes after taking that first breath.

We leave this world with one last exhale.

Breath is life. Good breathing leads to quality movement. Quality movement leads to better overall health.

Dr John Berardi in his Movement & Exercise lesson states that “developing a body that moves well is the ticket to a place where you feel — finally — capable, confident, and free.”

In the introduction of the Screening & Assessing Breathing: a multi-dimensional approach course from the Functional Movement Systems, it is stated that “the presence of dysfunctional breathing affects overall health and musculoskeletal system performance. It contributes to many symptoms and functional disturbances, including those affecting the musculoskeletal system. It can contribute to decreased pain thresholds, impaired motor control and balance, and subsequent movement dysfunction. Each of these impairments adversely affects performance in fitness and rehabilitation.”

Our lifestyle, alas, is structured in a way that makes us avoid movement, from transportation (car, bus, subway and even Segway or other lazy transportation modes replacing good old fashioned walking). We move away from our body’s natural ability and purposeful design to walk, run, jump, lift, climb, throw, swim and (yes) fight (for survival, originally), according to Georges Hébert’s (most authentic) nomenclature for what constitutes Functional Exercises.

Additionally, in his Fundamental Exercises, Hébert lists some of the benefits of mobility training, such as expansion of the rib cage, which leads to greater respiratory capacity, which in turn yields to a more productive and sustained performance during effort. He dedicates a whole section to movements designed to expand the rib cage and promote better breathing.

Dr Berardi in his aforementioned lesson also lists that from a higher quality of movement, his patients or course participants experience the following feelings of being:

  • more energetic and young-feeling,
  • able to do things they’ve been putting off for years,
  • empowered,
  • proud of their lifestyle, and
  • free from many of the anxieties and limitations that held them back for so long.

Ironically, but not coincidentally, many anxieties and limitations can stem from poor breathing. Some symptoms of dysfunctional breathing are hypertonicity in muscles like the scalene, trapezius, sternocleidomastoid and even temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Stiff neck, protruding head, tight jaw…

We’ve combined a few concepts to deliver a solid bang for your buck with the ProBar, activating better alignment through the shoulder and upper-thoracic region to reset your alignment and restore your posture for an optimal air flow. By opening your airways, you should notice not just that you’re breathing better, but that you’re also feeling better, looser, with more freedom in your movement.

And because sometimes, it’s hard to determine if our breathing is affected by pain, or if breathing causes pain (chicken or egg situation), and in the absence of a proper breathing screen, we will show you a couple of movements, with a few variations each, in the following video.

The first exercise, performed with a suspended spine,  has two-fold benefits:

  1. It helps relieve low back pain through extension, with a suspended spine.
  2. It provides a nice stretch to both the lats and the rib cage.

By pressing down on the (single or dual) short ProBar(s) with the hands (palms down or thumb-grip hold) and driving the chest (rather than the neck) onward with every exhale, we’re expanding the rib cage, aligning the spine without any pressure on it. It is important to be driving the chest and not the chin, which should be kept either neutral or even slightly pushing it back (giving yourself a double-chin on purpose).

Pressing down on the ProBar(s) creates a PNF stretch that inhibits otherwise tight muscles. Gently pulse as you try to lower your chest towards the ground with each exhale.

The variation of the single vs dual short ProBars is at the individual’s choice, based on his/her range of mobility in the shoulders, or for a differently targeted stretch. It can also be done (not shown in the video) with one arm supporting the body on the ground, and the other holding the ProBar either with the palm down or thumb grip option for a unilateral stretch.

The second exercise is performed with a stacked spine. The choice of going tall kneeling or half kneeling is up to the individual. Each one provides unilateral variations, as we need to twist left and right and differences will be felt unless one is perfectly symmetrical. The half-kneeling stance adds an extra element of discovery with the outside/vs inside rotations.

The stacked spine twists with the short ProBar “activated” and extended help with alignment and auto-correct your upper-thoracic chain, so that your spine can rotate on its axis without deviation. Rotating toward the front knee while exhaling is akin to a ‘Brettzel, which is done with a supported spine. Rotating away is a nice opener with external hip rotation, while still expanding the rib cage.