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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Kwoka

Our Most Underrated Tool

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Hey #fitfam ! Hope you're off to a great start of the week!

I'm really excited to get to this topic today. Today, we're talking about our most underrated tool we have as humans; and that is, Breathing. I'm partly excited because I have been passionate about this topic for a couple of years but partly for a newfound excitement I have for it!

We can use breathing to help us in many ways.

  1. Aid in difficult physical pursuits.

  2. Stabilize our emotions.

  3. Mobilize our stool.

  4. Fall asleep.

  5. Physical recovery and maximize stretching.

  6. Improve lung capacity and strengthen the lungs.

  7. Activate core and relax accessory muscles.

We can also use our breath to collect information about the following:

  1. Anxiety/Mood

  2. Difficulty in a Task

  3. Recovery and Rest

  4. Lung and Aerobic Function

So let's look at these things a little closer! Below, I want to heavily talk about the way we can use breathing to help us so I have sprinkled in how and where to collect information from listening to your breathing.

Aid in difficult physical pursuits.

During a session or class with me, you will undoubtedly hear reminders about breathing. Breathing can help us with the most difficult part of a physical endeavor. By inhaling and holding, we create internal pressure that stabilize our trunk, which in turn, transfers energy through the body to (hopefully) the large muscle groups that can carry the load. We can use the exhale during the toughest part of our exercise (the up phase of a push up), to get that extra little umph!

Stabilize our emotions.

When we lose our cool, it is a common tactic to "take a deep breath". That's not just a phrase. That is an actual strategy to bring oxygen to our brain and to take a second to think clearly. When we stabilize our breathing, we can stabilize our emotions. Have you noticed that your breath is "uncatchable" when going through something heavy, traumatic, or stressful? Focusing on catching your breath can help calm you down and come back to your senses.

In the reverse, sometimes we can notice our emotions by looking at our breath. I can recognize that I am a little more bothered or scared than I would like to admit because my breathing is more shallow or my heart rate has increased. If we can look at our breathing, we can collect information about our mood or emotions that is more objective to help us identify or understand the way we are feeling. We can use breathing to reset our emotions, which is why I like to start every training session with some good quality belly breathing. No matter what has happened today, this is where we can thank ourselves for showing up, and let go of all the other stuff that doesn't really matter in that moment... and go on to have a killer workout!

(Or, just more than we thought we would do, check out more on that her--> )

Mobilize our stool, and aid in overall digestion.

When we breathe while eating, we give our systems time in between bites to sort out food. Without taking breaths, we can overload our system by dumping a lot of food into our stomaches. Our bodies can process food differently when this happens by sending more of it to undigested to waste, or storing more than needed. Furthermore, when we make sure to take breaks in our eating, and make sure we're breathing during it, it will slow our eating down, which helps us better identify our true hunger levels while we eat.

In a less desirable conversation, breathing can help in bowel movements. If you are backed up, it can be a great tool to take some deep diaphragmatic breathes, especially while using the bathroom. And we can leave it there for you to try out on your own.

Fall asleep, relax, or meditate.

Counting sheep is a distracting tool to really focus on breathing. Often, we end up matching our breaths to our sheep and ultimately, you practice breathing to help you fall asleep. Sometimes, when trying to relax, we instinctively think to "take a deep breath" because it is almost as if you put the car into Manual, and breathing becomes first gear.

Physical recovery and maximize stretching.

On the exact same note, when we manually put our system into first gear, we can feel our muscles physically relax. Through stretching, we can feel the intensity lighten through each breath.

In addition, if during our rest period, we are noticing that it is taking us much longer to catch our breath than... last time, or near the intended rest time, or the everyone else** than we can collect information. Is it that I didn't sleep well, and it is more difficult for me to recover TODAY? Or is it that I am sick, or drank alcohol or smoked a cigarette last night and it is actually more difficult to breathe? Or is it a surprise that I am having a harder time recovering by noticing how quickly or not quickly I can catch my breath.

Improve lung capacity and strengthen the lungs.

Practicing inhaling and exhaling can actually improve the function and strength of the lungs. Recently, I have been listening more to unconscious breathing patterns, so those times when you're not thinking about breathing, how do you breathe? Are you someone that is a loud breather but you often don't even notice it? It could be that you aren't taking a lot of air through your exhale. It could also be that the function of your exhale is weak. The lungs are muscles that move like plastic bags, if they do not get expanded to their fullest regularly, the walls lose strength and will decrease in how much they regularly expand, which then decrees the capacity. Practicing breathing can help your overall aerobic function, which ultimately will stretch your longevity.

By improving the quality of your breathing and function of your lungs, you can increase the delivery of oxygen to the rest of the body. Do the tires in your car work better with more or less air in them? A similar concept in that your body can function and process better with better functioning lungs!

Activate core and relax accessory muscles.

During true diaphragmatic breathing, the trunk is doing the work, with lungs and expanding and diaphragm lifting. However, if you breathe from your chest, then all the muscles surrounding your true "core" muscles are the ones working. Those muscles around your neck and those muscles at your chest. During this 'chest' breathing, the neck and chest can become quite tight and contribute to other aches and pains due to overworking from breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing however, can activate the trunk and core, while giving relief to the neck and accessory muscles, another huge reason that I always start with breathing in every class and session!


In many times, in my personal and professional life, I can see how useful the simple act of breathing can be. It can calm me down, or it ramp me up when I'm singing at the top of my lungs. It can help me do more, and it can help me do less.

Two big things I have noticed recently that many people do, which has sparked my desire to write about it!

I noticed a weaker exhale pattern. That during unconscious breathing, the exhale is loud and short, almost nonexistent. When asked to breathe slowly with a longer exhale, that it is difficult.

I also noticed inconvenient breathing times. During eating, sometimes we take a bite and then take a conscious breath... while all the food is in the mouth, instead of taking a bite, chewing, swallowing, and then taking a breath. Part of this is for safety, to make sure that our inhale isn't going to be obstructed and to minimize/avoid a chance for choking.

Or another example is when we feel stressed that we hold our breath in order to get out the words we think we should be saying so it's not quiet or it doesn't appear that we don't have the answer. This puts constraint on the brain! The lack of oxygen definitely doesn't help in the sorting out information and identifying the points we want to make.

For the past several years, I have been practicing using my breathing during my training. For the past year, I have been practicing using my breathing regarding my emotional state. Amazing enough, I have known the many benefits of breathing, and I have been practicing it but in such specific realms, almost always in physical pursuits and not realizing the abundance of layover in other areas of my life. I have watched a transformation of how I respond to others and my self during the past year because I have been using breathing as a tool to manage my expectations and my emotions.

Paying attention to my breathing has helped me understand a variety of other physiological responses to certain stresses or stimulus that helps me be aware of my emotional state. Ultimately, being more aware of my breathing, as made me more aware of my self. I seriously challenge you to take note in your breathing for the rest of this week. Either gain information by noticing your breathing, or use it as a tool to change how you're feeling or improve how you're moving... of both! Let me know what you notice!

Here is an easy and basic exercise that you can practice:

  1. In a comfortable positions, easiest laying on the back, place one hand on heart, one hand on stomach to notice where the movement is.

  2. Inhale for three counts into the belly hand, tummy rising as you fill up the lungs like a balloon.

  3. Hold it for one count at the top.

  4. Exhale for three counts, letting out all the air at an even pace, pulling belly button back towards the spine.

  5. Hold it for one count at the bottom.

  6. Repeat 10 times.

Have a great week and remember to breathe.

<3 Coach Kwo

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