Breathing through Movement
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
by: Sharon Starika

Section: Athletes

Knowing when to inhale and exhale can be confusing, whether your doing an Awareness Through Movement® (ATM)® lesson or running. While you are in the process of discovering your breath where it should be, you could be tensing up your chest, holding your breath, or clenching your jaw.

The goal here is to make it simple, because breathing is quite simple. First and foremost, we all need to remember that breathing is one of the few things “built in” or “wired into” our brain and nervous system. Breath is automatic. And yet, often we experience different inhibitions that affect our breath. How do these inhibitions show up?

Here are a few ways we can notice and discover our inhibitions: Are you pushing too hard? Trying too hard to go faster? Lifting too much weight in the gym? Straining in a yoga class?

Straining in an ATM class? These are just a few examples we may be inhibiting our breathing. If you notice, in most of those situations, there is a push or a strain to do more. When this occurs, holding one’s breath is the first thing to happen. This is the moment when things start to fall apart.

Holding one’s breath is the beginning of the end.

It is necessary to learn to regulate our breath. In order to do this, notice  when something begins to feel difficult, the breath will shift becoming faster and quicker. However, during that change it is just as important to notice our exhale. If we loose our exhale, or if it is extremely short, we need to back off from what we’re doing to prevent from going into a pattern of holding our breath. By backing off just a little, we give ourselves the opportunity to self-regulate our breathing again. This means the breath returns to being continuous, the exhale is present, and there is a flow to the breath. As soon as this is established, you can begin to introduce intensity, to increase your speed, to climb harder on the bike, or to break into a faster pace.

As I was teaching a class recently one of the thoughts I brought to the room was: “How much do we use pushing hard, being tough, straining, and being out of breath as a way to measure how we are doing? If we are not ‘pushing hard’ are we are doing enough?” Why does it need to be hard?

Look at this as your first opportunity to learn to self-regulate your breath. The key is to back off when things get hard. When I say back off, it’s by  a fraction so that you can get your breath back to its rhythm and continuous flow. There are four parts to your breath you want to become aware of: the inhalation, a pause, the exhalation, and a pause. The pauses are needed to transition the phases of inhaling or exhaling. All four parts of the breath are needed.

As you learn to bring awareness and attention to your breath, look for the four parts, their flow and their rhythm. If you find yourself HOLDING your breath, back off and self-regulate, to reestablish the four parts of the breath.

Begin now introducing yourself to the four parts of your breathing. Start by noticing them in a non-active state such as an ATM lesson. Next, bring your awareness to other physical activities, such as running, that you engage in. You will notice that your breath is different in each activity and situation. Once you become familiar with your breath, keep your awareness in the background of yourself. Then, when needed, you will be able to bring your breath to the foreground of your attention.

Self-regulation will be one of your greatest tools and gifts during an ATM lesson as well as running!

Sharon Starika has a deep passion for running and bicycling, having been a competitive triathlete for more than twenty years. After a debilitating accident with a semi-truck two decades ago, Sharon’s doctors gave her little hope of ever running again but through practicing the Feldenkrais Method®, she was able to recover, run, bike, swim, and compete again. From Sharon’s remarkable recovery, she found her passion for movement and realized that she wanted to teach others to move with greater ease, comfort, less pain, and to live fuller lives with movement. Sharon is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm, with her private practice based in Park City.
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Comments (1)
Arthur Gillman
5/4/2016 7:13:27 PM
Can you comment on the Cybernetic aspect of breathing, per Feldenkrais' ideas? Thanks!

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