“Who, then, is breathing? The collection of information that you mistakenly think is you is not the main protagonist in this drama called the breath. In fact, you are not breathing; breath is naturally happening to you. You can purposely end your own life, but you cannot purposely keep your own life going. The expression, “My life” is actually an oxymoron, a result of ignorance and mistaken assumption. You don’t posses life; life expresses itself through you. Your body is a flower that life let bloom, a phenomenon created by life.”
― Ilchi Lee
I was warming up the other week during a class (I have started a few CrossFit classes in order to bring up my general fitness level) and we were doing some exercises with the barbell – something I am obviously familiar with. I am moving with the bar, paying special attention to breathe in or release breadth at certain moments. I am in my own mind, thinking about my movements, my balance, whats turned on, what needs to ignite, and channeling energy/concentration throughout my body… breathing helps produce this energy – especially knowing how to breathe during these exercises. As I am moving through it, a participant next to me says, sarcastically, “Are you going to be breathing like that the whole time?” I just shrugged.
I was startled… I have spent so much time in my life in situations that required a tremendous amount of energy and be directly in the moment. I was startled that someone would not know what I was doing, or why I was doing it. Breadth is a very basic human component. You do it without trying… and it is required to live. Your body is automated to do it for you. There is, however, an immense amount of energy to be found within breathing. Learning to control this will help you on many levels. It allows you to absorb immense energy… it also allows you to expel or extend a tremendous amount of energy. While I was squatting in this same session, I hit a PR back squat. Easily the heaviest in the class. I had never attempted the weight before, didn’t even know what it’d feel like. I took a deep breadth to strengthen my diaphragm, and when coming out of the pocket yelled – or expelled that energy – as I was sticking to get to the top. When I racked the barbell I was told that I sound “like a fucking idiot.” My reply “There’s energy to be found in breathing.” Her reply, “No, there’s not.”
That’s just part of the picture… that’s the physical effects of using your breadth. There is a subliminal picture here: releasing actual energy. I find it odd that people say the term, “mind and body,” which denotes that they are separate. Elliott Hulse speaks on this. The mind does not stop at the brain stem… it goes throughout your body. It is more like “mind/body.” There is a lot of eastern thought in this, and it would behoove you to expand your research in this direction.
Yelling, or grunting, helps to expend this energy. There is a ton of research that says that yelling, if used correctly, enhances performance. Why does a martial artist yell when they strike or absorb an impact? Why does a Hammer thrower yell when they release the Hammer? Why does one yell when they strike a board or brick? Why do Weightlifters grunt or yell in a lift? The expenditure of energy and power. Here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254615000964
Breathing helps you to stay in the moment. As well as increasing energy output, it can calm you, reduce anxiety, stress, and fear. When I was in the Marine Corps, or even recently, there were times in my life that I had to tell myself, “remember to breathe.” Stacked on a house door, imminent death in my mind, my heart rate at 4000, screaming… I just told myself, “breathe.” In recent times, where I was filled with such pain and sadness that I would sit in my shower for 20 minutes at a time, on the bathtub floor in complete surrender, literally feeling the weight on my shoulders increasing, and it was just so hard to breathe I told myself, “stop, take a breadth,” as my hands were shaking. Breathing brings you back into the moment. You are still alive, it centers you to where you are and what you are doing.
As I enter competitions, and approach the platform, or even a heavy lift, you will often see me stop. I am breathing. In, and then out. That is the calm, seeking flow in my moment and my rhythm. Then again, when performing the lift, you will always hear me expend breadth or yell. That is the channeling of energy. At the end, I breathe heavily, and absorb what just happened and what needs to happen. The very gifts of life are in your breadth. Too often we crush ourselves in what ifs, what could have beens, why nots, who done its, why mes… and instead, just stop, take a breadth, and absorb. Or expel. Both have their benefits, and you may need both in that moment. The world is chaotic, but you have the ability to control what you let in and let out of your heart. The choice is with you. There are times to hurt, there are times to be content. There are times to be violent and fierce… there are times to be soft and effortless. Know when to breathe. Remind yourself. Concentrate on it. Remember to breathe.