Imagine you're out for a walk on a beautiful fall day.

You're enjoying some good conversation and the great outdoors when you turn the corner and there standing 20 feet ahead is a giant, vicious looking dog.

You are so close you can see each one of his razor sharp teeth as he begins to growl and creep closer and closer.  

Without hesitation, your body goes into whats known as fight-or-flight mode as your sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear. 

Your heart-rate and stress hormones elevate, your senses increase, your body's energy production increases and your muscles prepare to fire. 

You are ready to fight-or-flight!

This is a great thing our body does to prepare us to handle things like dangerous situations or a hard workout. 

The problem is many of us cannot turn this sympathetic system off. 

You see, stress accumulates.

Whether it is a real threat like the dog or you experience financial, emotional or relationship stress or anxiety -- they all add up and our body treats them the same. 

Our stress hormones stay elevated and our muscles stay active and begin to stiffen. 

This drives what is known as an extended posture.

The skeleton on the left is what is known as a neutral posture. This is where we want to be most of the time. 

The skeleton on the right is in extension where the front of the rib cage lifts up, the head protrudes forward and the pelvis tilts anteriorly causing the lumbar spine (lower spine) to push forward.  

Try this. 

Take a DEEP breath in through your nose and then pause.

You will probably notice your chest rises, head tilts up and your back arches. This is extension and where most of us get stuck. Yes, we get stuck in a position of inhalation. 

This chronic state of stress and extension causes:

  • changes in our posture 
  • decreased flexibility 
  • decreased aerobic endurance
  • increased weight gain  
  • increased respiratory and heart rate
  • increased muscle and joint pain/stiffness
  • increased anxiety
  • increased tiredness

The key to negate these issues is to have the ability to switch in and out of this stressed out, sympathetic state to a more parasympathetic (rest & digest) position. 

This will not only help you relax, but also improve posture, muscle pain, flexibility and your ability to recover from exercise. 

So, what can we do to help shut off our fight-or-flight system.

Exhale.

Something really cool happens when you relax and focus on deep exhalation. 

At Dynamic, we use specific breathing drills in the opposite position of extension. 

We get into a slight flexed spinal position and focus on long, drawn out exhalation. 

These drills aid in:

  • lowering your heart rate
  • decreasing stress hormones and anxiety
  • decreasing muscle and joint pain/stiffness
  • increasing joint range-of-motion
  • increasing recovery from workouts
  • improving posture

These drills work almost like a relaxing massage or total-body stretch.

Bye, bye tension.

Not only do you feel better with less tension, but your posture and range-of-motion starts to improve allowing you to get more out of your workouts and decrease your risk of injury!

Let's get into our 4 favorite breathing (exhaling) drills! 

#1 90/90 Hip Lift

Every training session at DSC starts with a positional breathing drill.  One of our favorites shown above is called the 90/90 hip-lift. This exercise is specifically designed to relax your low back while improving the posture and position of your hips and spine. The combination of proper position and exaggerated exhales works like a massage to calm your stiff and overworked low back, neck, shoulders and hips. 

Key Points

  • Lay on back with thighs and shins at 90 degrees, feet on wall
  • Keep low back in contact with floor (think of melting into the floor)
  • Keeping shoulders and neck relaxed, inhale easily through nose
  • Exhale through pursed lips
  • Make exhale as long and drawn out as possible
  • Hold breath for 2 seconds and repeat for 10 breaths
  • Complete before and after workouts and before bed

#2 Wall Dead-Bug

The wall dead-bug is one of our favorite ab exercises. The combination of keeping your back flat and working on deep, aggressive exhales make these very tough.

Learn more in the video below. 

#3 Deep Squat Belly Breathe

The deep squat belly breathing is one of our favorite breathing drills. It reverses the extended running posture by putting you into a flexed spine position and actually calms your entire body including your nervous system and heart rate. The deep squat position stretches and calms your overworked lats, low back, hip flexors, IT band, quads and calves. This is also a great drill for people who need work to improve their squat technique.

Key Points:

  • Grab a post at hip height with both hands
  • Start feet together, about 6-12 inches from post
  • Keep heels flat and drop as low as possible into squat position
  • Think of melting into squat
  • Your low back should be rounded
  • Inhale easily through nose and exhale long and slow through mouth
  • Hold position for 10 deep breaths
  • Complete before and after workouts and before bed

#4 Lat Hang

The lat hang is the ultimate shoulder and posture breathing drill. The hanging position opens up commonly stiff areas like your pecs and lats that restrict shoulder range-of-motion. This position also helps to improve upper body posture by reversing overly kyphotic (rounded) upper backs commonly seen with those who sit a lot during the day. 

Key Points:

  • With feet supported, hang from a pull-up bar
  • Palms should be facing you or each other
  • Keep feet flat and knees bent 
  • Tuck pelvis up - if you had a belt on, belt buckle should be pointed up
  • Keep ribs tucked down
  • Feel stretch through pecs and shoulders
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale long and slow through mouth
  • Hold position for 10 deep breaths
  • Complete before and after workouts and before bed

#5 Knees-Up Belly Lift 

The knee-up belly lift might be our favorite ab exercises. They look easy but they are tough. The combination of deep exhales and having to hold yourself up in position make these a great drill to add strength to your new posture. If the knees up is too challenging, simply perform the drill with your knees on the ground. 

Key Points: 

  • Start on all fours with hands under shoulders, knees under hips
  • Tuck pelvis so belt buckle is pointed up
  • Push chest as far as possible from ground
  • Back should be very rounded
  • Lift knees up, one inch off of ground
  • Hold position and inhale through nose
  • Exhale aggressively through mouth and feel a big stomach crunch
  • Hold position for 5 breaths
  • Perform before or during workouts