3 Breathing Exercises to Help You Heal, Align, Unwind
Fitness experts Jill Miller and Kelly Starrett are changing the way we think about mobility, exercise, body maintenance, and even the simple function of breathing. From muscular adhesions to self-messaging techniques and diaphragm exercises, Jill and Kelly have an endless amount of ways you can improve your recovery time, manage stress, and boost your respiratory health. During their two-day creativeLIVE workshop, Maintaining Your Body, this dynamic duo shared a few, easy-to-follow exercises that you can start implementing today. Here are our favorites.
Understanding how your diaphragm works can increase the efficiency of every single breath you take. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits underneath your lungs, attaching to your ribs. Stress and tension on your spine, around your ribs, and poor posture can prevent the diaphragm from doing its job. Ideally, you should be able to take deep breaths that stretch and expand your belly. Jill believes the single most helpful exercise to get an inside-out sense of this muscle is a practice called “Uddihyana Bandha” or the “Abdominal Vacuum.” If you don’t know how to perform this exercise, watch this video Jill made with Kelly Starrett. If you find that you have tension, try shifting to a different position and working on your posture. Holding tension in your back and torso can prevent you from taking full breaths.
Freeing up your abdomen during breathing has been one of the cornerstones of Jill’s Yoga Tune Up philosophy. She emphasizes diaphragm awareness during her yoga practice, and she displays impeccable control and coordination of her abdominal muscles during breathing exercises like nauli kriya. Kelly Starrett has incorporated her diaphragm and breathing techniques into his popular Mobility Workout of the Day (WOD) system.
So how do you relax your abdominal muscles and optimize your breathing? Jill and Kelly recommend the use of a nine-inch inflatable ball, the kind that you can purchase at yoga and fitness supply stores. This tool is used to massage tense muscles that can impede your breathing. Jill lies down on this inflatable ball, rolling to massage the psoas and to clear muscular adhesions that can affect your range of motion.
Releasing these core muscles can help alleviate pain in the spine, trunk, and limbs. Abdominal tightness can cause you to adopt poor posture in other regions as you seek to compensate for tight or weak core muscles. Jill asserts that improved breathing can speed up recovery times during physical activity.
Jill uses many other tools to treat muscular adhesions – spots marked by tension and pain that can decrease your mobility and performance. During her Sliding Surfaces section in the Maintaining Your Body, Jill demonstrates how to use lacrosse balls and foam rollers for myofascial release on your spine — a self-massage technique that can dramatically reduce tension and increase your range of movement. Using these tactics can cause mild pain, but only to muscles that are out of place, knotted or stressed. You should keep pressure on each knot, or adhesion, until you feel a release of tension and a flood of warmth across that muscle.
These self-repair techniques can be completed within a few minutes at home, and do not require expensive equipment. Your muscular adhesion treatment can be paired with Kelly’s Mobility WOD to improve your movement and posture. You can practice these self-care and form correction techniques by following along with Kelly and Jill during Maintaining Your Body. The mobility experts can give you a real-time demonstration of each technique, along with in-depth descriptions of muscle target areas and benefits.
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