Training your breath is powerful tool for any mover and one that is often forgotten at least in western sport culture.
You don’t have to think to breathe and therefore it is easy not to think about your breathing. One can assume the body naturally knows how to breathe for performance. This not always the case and refining the relationship between breath and movement is powerful tool for progression.
Athletic movements almost invariable initiate in the torso and flow out into the limbs, organizing the movement of the spine and muscle of the trunk is a huge key to organized, effective and safe movement. The lungs are always moving, changing the dynamics of the spine, ribs and diaphragm. Your breathing can reinforce good movement or it can become disorganized relative to the movements of the torso and result in force leaks and inefficiencies.
Breathing is also the basic rhythm of the body and breathing in specific rhythms helps the body settle into effective cadences for specific movement goals.
If your breathing isn’t organized, your movement will not be optimally organized either.
Finally the breath is one of the most powerful ways in which we can modulate the activity of the central nervous system, breathing deeply through the nose and down into the diaphragm calms us down, breathing rapidly and forcefully through the mouth revs us up.
The subject of how to breathe and how to train breathing for various effects is vast and I don’t aim to cover it all in this post.
Practicing Your Breathing
I just wanted to lay out some of the effects of practicing your breathing and offer a simple challenge.
I learned to do this practice from a Robb Vyn, a systema instructor I worked with.
The practice is simple– move through an environment doing light slow flow work.
While focusing on deep diaphragmatic nasal breathing, try to find a match between the rhythm of the breath and the rhythm of the movement. Never hold or reverse your breathe as you move over an obstacle. If you start a vault or jump breathing in you breathe in all the way through the movement and vice versa.
Start by trying three repetitions of a minute of this type of training as a warm up. You will find it helps develop a calm focused mindset and warms you up without tiring you out.
With a little work on breathing five minutes of continuous flow becomes relatively easy and we have experimented with up to 20 minutes of this breathing flow.
Here is an interesting video of some old school systema locomotive training notice the very relaxed movement quality this very intentional and developing this capacity for relaxation in movement is primary focus of the systema training and one of its primary benefits for general movers.