00:01:20 Guest Background
00:06:40 Leverage your breathing for better posture and better movement
00:09:36 Key principles of breathing and breathwork
00:12:37 Importance of breathing in through our noses
00:17:12 Exhale is actually as important to respiration
00:22:38 We need carbon dioxide in order for respiration to happen
00:24:05 What are chemoreceptors?
00:29:49 Posture and movement
00:33:06 T Spine Rotation
00:38:46 How to breathe properly
00:46:35 Breathing Tips
- Breathing Course
- FocusCalm with the neurofeedback headband
- Discount code- for 20% off: fitterdad (all lowercase)
- Athletic Greens Discount
- Visit the Fitter Healthier Dad website
- Subscribe or leave a review on iTunes
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here Is your host Darren Kirby.
Darren: Welcome back to the podcast, guys. This is the number one podcast for men in their 40s who want to improve their health through nutrition and fitness. This is episode 102. And on today’s episode, we are talking with Dana Santas, a.k.a. the mobility maker. Dana was a pioneer in bringing yoga-inspired mobility training into professional sport. She is CNN’s health expert and has a passion for empowering people to breathe, move and feel better. Donna shares her experience through mentorship, lectures, interviews, and social media with the hope to inspire others. Hi, Donna, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast today. How are you?
Dana: I’m great. Thank you for having me.
Darren: Thanks for giving us your time to come on to the podcast. And I love your also known as the Mobility Maker, and you’ve got an awesome YouTube channel. So for people that haven’t come across you before, Dana, and before we get obviously you get into the podcast economic background on you and how you’ve come to kind of be where you’re at today.
Dana: Oh, sure. Well, it’s been almost two decades, and whenever I say that, it makes me feel very old, but it’s been almost two decades since I initially had this idea that I wanted to bring yoga into professional sports here in the US. And that quickly developed into something much more than yoga because it is as much as that. It was a very good idea because movement is really unbelievably so movement and mobility and focusing on the precise aspects of how we move. It really wasn’t a focus in professional sports 20 years ago, and especially in it. I do a lot of work in Major League Baseball. It wasn’t really focused on baseball. I actually would say that that was one of the reasons that I got into MLB so quickly was because it was just a whole piece that was missing. But then once I got in, I realized that traditional yoga as we know it and we experience it and there are so many different kinds. But when I say traditional yoga, I mean the yoga that you would get if you go into a studio that just doesn’t really fit in professional sports with the schedules that these athletes have, and honestly, with most of us, one of the things that are kind of off-putting for yoga is that you have to set aside an entire hour or seventy-five minutes and that can become overwhelming and definitely tough to sustain, you know, when if you have kids and in careers and lives. So never mind just being a professional athlete so quickly, I realized that I had to be more efficient and effective in how I was addressing movement for these players.
And so that led me to do all kinds of training in biomechanics. And everybody seems to have an acronym. And so some people might be familiar with FMS, which is a functional movement system. And so that was one of the first things that I took a look at. And that’s very much kind of yoga-based. If you look at their corrective exercises, they look very much like yoga movements. So that resonated a lot with me. But then TPI, which is Titleist Performance Institute, I do a lot of work in the PGA as well. And so that really started getting me looking more at rotational sports and the biomechanics of rotation. And so that was very cool. But then the thing that really changed how I address movement from start to finish is something called PRI told you it’s all acronyms. And that’s the Postural Restoration Institute. And with them, I went deep down a rabbit hole on what respiration is and how active breathing is actually a movement pattern. Right. And that, you know, took me pretty far away from a lot of what I had learned in yoga. And most people think, oh, well, yoga gives you a good base for understanding, breathing, but not really. No, because yoga is a very old practice that began, some say, as long ago as five thousand years ago. We couldn’t look inside the body, at least not while we were alive at that point.
Right. And so we didn’t really understand this amazing thing that was happening with breathing other than what we could kind of feel. But we didn’t know what the biomechanics were behind it. And now we actually do. And so some of the yoga cues like breathe into your belly, which I know you’ve probably heard most of your audience has heard very well-intentioned, but not biomechanically correct. I mean, we know clearly on the surface that no one can breathe into their belly when you take in the air. And if it does go into your belly, then that’s gas. And that’s going to come out in a completely different way. Right. So you can only ever breathe into your lungs. But I definitely want to get into that and what that means for your audience a little later. But just letting you know how my career evolved, once I started to understand breathing as a movement pattern, I started to bring that into professional sports. And really, that’s when my career took off because that was something that they weren’t looking at. And it has a profound impact, not just on your mental performance and your ability to self regulate. And most people kind of understand that, right. When we get stressed, we should take a deep breath. But again, a little later, I want to explain to you what that is. Really means because a deep breath and an inhale actually can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system with that fight or flight as opposed to the exhale, which really is what helps down regulators. So empowering people with the understanding of how to leverage their breathing for mental performance was huge.
But then there was this other piece that is really exciting, too, which is being able to leverage your breathing for better posture and better movement and the elimination of chronic pain. There really is no other controllable movement pattern that we do more on a daily basis than breathing, and it impacts virtually everything. So all the systems of our body. So it is literally a super power. So here I was now going into all these teams and sharing the superpower with them. And that’s basically what I’ve been doing. And along the way, it was actually the athletic trainer at the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is a US hockey team, and they actually just won the Stanley Cup last season. And I’ve worked with them since 2011. But it was the athletic trainer there who said, well, you definitely don’t do yoga, so we don’t want to call you the yoga person anymore. You’re the mobility maker. Yeah. And that stuck. It stuck so much. Yeah. That’s my social media handle. And I think some people don’t even know my real name. I know that one person once when I was traveling, not last year, because I don’t think any of us traveled last year, but the year before someone ran up to me in an airport and they were yelling mobility maker A. Can I take a picture with you? And I, I don’t think they knew my real name. So that’s how my career has evolved.
Darren: Yeah. I mean, it is super, super interesting for the simple reason of the two being brought together. So in the fitness and kind of movement space at the moment, there’s a lot being talked about functional movement and movement moving more, and then there’s a lot being spoken about breathing and breath work. But I’ve not come across anyone who’s kind of molded to like you have. And so that’s why I think it’s super, super interesting, because just those on their own, the functional movement and the breathwork are quite profound. But clearly putting them together is, like you say, a super power. So let’s kind of take it back a little bit then, because the funny thing is, when I talk to people about breathing and breath work, they kind of look at you really strangely. And then, of course, we know it’s a body we breathe every day that would die if we didn’t break. But no, I think the majority of us I truly believe now don’t know how to breathe properly. And to take your point that you said earlier about deep breaths, I’ve recently learned that taking a deep breath is not the most efficient way to breathe, and it doesn’t really do that much good. So obviously you’re missing out on breathing. Where would you say or what would you say are the key principles of breathing and breathwork before we get onto the mobility side of things?
Dana: Well, I think you’ve made so many good points and said things that I’ve heard over and over. Yeah, I, I mean, I’m alive, aren’t I? So obviously I know how to breathe. That’s an objection that I’ve come across quite a few times. It doesn’t mean you’re breathing well. And you also mentioned, you know, people know that if you’re not breathing, you’re dead. So that’s a no-brainer. You don’t have to explain that to anyone. They understand that you have to breathe to live. But what people tend to miss is that there is a direct correlation between the quality of your breathing and the quality of your life, because breathing has an impact on all of the systems of our body. It is the only aspect of our autonomic nervous system that we can actually take control of. When we’re not thinking about it. It happens automatically to keep us alive. But there’s a reason that we can control it. And through that control, we can access all of those other systems and optimize them as well, because breathing has an influence. So you can use your breathing and I had said this before, to down-regulate in the way that we do that is by controlling our breathing, we can then lower our blood pressure and our heart rate and inhibit our stress response.
Those are powerful things. Yeah, right. So I think having people first is the understanding, being empowered with the understanding of truly how powerful this is. Yeah, that’s the first part. The second part is understanding what it means. You see t-shirts, people have sent me t-shirts that say just breathe. And what a useless piece of advice, because if you don’t know how or if somewhere along the way, because you’re a human being and you’ve experienced an injury and illness or chronic stress, your breathing pattern has been knocked out of whack. Again, this is one of the reasons why we have the access to take control of it because then we have to retrain it to be optimal. Right. So it’s been knocked out of whack. If our car if the tires get knocked out of alignment, we don’t say, well, this is just how my car drives now. No, we take it in and we get it realigned. So the same thing will happen with our breathing and we just need to retrain it to be optimal. So. So, yeah, but understanding how to do that, though, is important. It’s not “just breathe” because not if you just breathe, you’re going to be stuck in that same pattern. Yeah.
Darren: And I think it’s going to kind of cut you off that. But just just quickly, I wanted to make the point that conscious awareness is profound when you are consciously aware of how you are or not breathing efficiently and you change diets has such a massive effect.
Dana: Yes, absolutely. So going back to your really great question about what are these key points? So the first one that I’m sure a lot of people have heard about is the importance of breathing in through our noses and breathing in and out is excellent breathing. When you breathe out of your nose, you can better control the pace of the exhale. But breathing out of your nose is not as important as breathing in through your nose, because we when we inhale through our noses, our nasal sinuses, express nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator, and all of that I know sounds like gobbledygook to some people, but so what it is, is it’s helping to increase oxygenation. So it’s actually making you inhale that much more effectively. But then people can do their own research on this. But if they were to look up what is nitric oxide’s impact on the body? It also has an impact on all of the systems of the body. So it’s something that we actually need. And it really is helpful for the health of all of these systems that are part of the autonomic nervous system. So people can look up nitric oxide on their own because of those other benefits. But when you’re thinking about it, just in terms of breathing, we want that because it’s going to make that inhale much more efficient and effective now. So that would be nasal breathing being the first point.
The second point is let’s get rid of that idea that we’re trying to breathe into our bellies because it’s just anatomically, completely incorrect. Right. But that’s just not how biomechanics work. So there are three things that I want people to think about in terms of their breathing. So that would be lungs. The only place that we can put air during respiration is our lungs. So lungs, ribcage, and diaphragm. And generally, people don’t think about the rib cage. Right. When they’re thinking about breathing, it’s diaphragm, but they don’t really understand what that muscle is, what it looks like, how it functions. So that’s important, again, to empower people with this understanding. And it’s not that complex, really isn’t. The diaphragm is a skeletal muscle. That’s important, too, because people think about it as like the heart. Is it a cardiac muscle or they think about it like an organ. Like the diaphragm is an organ. The diaphragm is a skeletal muscle. Your bicep is a skeletal muscle. It contracts and it relaxes and it acts on bone. So if we go back to our biceps, we know that our biceps flexes our elbow. When we contract our biceps, you bend your arm. It’s pretty simple. OK, well, with the diaphragm, when the diaphragm contracts, your ribs externally rotate so your ribs actually move out. That’s part of the diaphragm contraction. When the diaphragm relaxes your ribs, which are the bones that the diaphragm is attached to, they actually come together towards each other.
They internally rotate. So just to give you a better visual and actually people could put their hands on their lower ribs. We have that in for a sternal angle there. That’s split between our ribs. That’s because those ribs right there are designed to move. And that’s where your diaphragm is, where your diaphragm is housed in that area. So on the inhale, as the diaphragm flattens and comes down and contracts in order for it to flatten, because on the. Say it’s a dome to flatten those ribs or kind of think about it like pulling apart. Yeah, those ribs are coming apart. The ribs are also coming apart because your lungs are inflating. Right? So you’re increasing the area in your thorax through inhalation. And then on the exhale, in order for the diaphragm to relax, those ribs need to come in towards each other. So that angle starts to narrow as the ribs come in and then the diaphragm gets sucked up inside of the rib cage. And I don’t know. If those ribs don’t move, though, then that means that the diaphragm stays in a contracted state and you don’t fully exhale. That’s where most of us are stuck or don’t fully exhale. Yeah, so. So now we’ve said we want to breathe in through our nose, in and out if possible, but definitely in through our nose.
And then when we’re thinking about our breathing, we want to think about lungs, ribs and diaphragm. OK, so those are the most important points. But now when you’re thinking about phases of the breath, it’s going to be the exhale. I always say the exhale is in. The money is in the exhale because, yeah, the exhale is so underrated and so is carbon dioxide so underrated. We think it’s just a waste product that ‘s not important to respiration. But the exhale is actually as important to respiration as the inhale. You can’t use the oxygen that you take in if it’s not being exchanged with carbon dioxide. That’s part of the process of respiration. So if you’re continually taking in oxygen and you’re not allowing levels of carbon dioxide to rise, you’re not able to use the oxygen you’re taking in. Right. So now we’ve got three components, right, we’ve got the breathing in through your nose understanding that we’re not breathing into our belly, so we’re looking at lungs, ribs and diaphragm. And then this third piece is Focus on the Exhale. Right. That’s that. And then I’m going to stop here for a second so that we can talk a little bit about this. But then I want to take us through a breathing exercise so that we understand what that looks like. And then we also understand where most of us are stuck.
Darren: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Perfect. Because I think when we’re talking about this, I think a lot of people will assume that this is sports-related, i.e. we need to be very mindful about this when we’re doing sports. But it’s not at all, is it? This is just basic day-to-day life and we kind of lose that thing that we’re born with in order to breathe as efficiently as we grow and evolve. Right. So I think that’s really important to think about, because particularly around stress and sympathetic, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, breathing efficiently can massively, massively help them.
Dana: Absolutely, yes, I mean, there have been studies done, 90 seconds of functional diaphragmatic breathing can lower your heart, rate your blood pressure and inhibit your stress response. Just 90 seconds. So we have this control to go from chaos to calm. And it’s right it’s right here. It’s within us. Right. But most of us don’t understand that we have that control. And again, now, if we’re stuck in an over-breathing cycle and we’re trying to take deep breaths, then we’re not going to be able to really do that job. It’s certainly not in 90 seconds right now. So let’s look at where most of us are stuck and how we can start to try to breathe better. So I want to address this over breathing cycle that we get into when our ribs don’t move, which is where a lot of us end up. We end up with immobile ribs. It can happen for so many different reasons. I gave examples of chronic stress, illness, or injury that cause us to be immobile. And I would argue that breathing and posture are absolutely the same things in the way that you breathe is going to dictate the position of your ribcage. And to understand that if someone were to inhale right now very vertically and like to lift their ribcage with the inhale, then I mean, that’s what happens to your ribcage. Its position is completely changed by how you breathe.
So the position of your ribcage is dictated by the quality of your breathing. And when we think about what posture is, isn’t it all about your thorax? Your ribcage takes up almost 50 percent of your axial skeleton. So your rib cage is really the biggest contributor to what your posture is. And again, the position of your ribcage is dictated by the quality of your breathing. So what happens is either we’ve put ourselves into a posture where we’re kind of stuck, so that’s inhibited our breathing or maybe we were under chronic stress. That led to a shallow, rapid breathing pattern that then created the posture. So it’s chicken or egg and it works either way. Right. So now what happens is the ribs don’t move. And hopefully, you guys were understanding when I was explaining how the diaphragm is a skeletal muscle that really relies on rib movement for it to function. The ribs don’t move. We end up generally with the diaphragm stuck in a contracted or semi-contracted state. Right. That’s not going to be functional for us to be able to take in full breaths and definitely let out full exhales. So in order to keep us alive, our bodies are like, all right, I’ll adapt. We’ll make this work. So we’re going to recruit accessory breathing muscles from our upper body to lift the rib cage to help pull the air in because the diaphragm isn’t part of the equation anymore.
So that means we start to recruit our pecs so our chest muscles are the anterior shoulder, the front of our shoulder, our necks, our upper backs, because all of these muscles are involved. I remember when I said inhale vertically. Those are all the muscles that turn on to lift all of that up. And now remember that we take upwards of twenty thousand breaths a day. So all of those muscles now, unbeknownst to most of us, are firing twenty thousand times a day. Yeah. So it’s going to create not just a sense of chronic stress, but also chronic tension in those areas . It’s a vicious cycle because it’s going to lead to more mobility. That’s going to make it harder for you to access your ribcage in your diaphragm. So what we need to do is get us out of this upper chest-oriented pattern, because also that just feeds the inhale. Remember, I said those ribs need to be able to come in and that interesting angle narrows for the diaphragm to Dollman. Relax, that’s the exhale. We’re not able to exhale. Remember also how I had said that we need carbon dioxide in order for respiration to happen. Yeah. So what happens is we’re stuck in this shallow, upper chest oriented, adaptive kind of compensatory breathing pattern and we’re inhaling more than we’re exhaling.
Right. Which and not to go too deep on you, but there’s science behind all of this. The body is such an amazing machine. So we have in our brainstem these things called chemoreceptors. And their job is to tell us when we actually need to inhale. Their job is to make sure that we’re still breathing. Now, since we’ve been in this upper chest-oriented, shallow breathing pattern, they’ve become desensitized. We’re actually over sensitized, excuse me, over sensitized to any sort of rising in carbon dioxide because they’re not used to that because we’re constantly inhaling. So now, as soon as we start to get these increased levels of carbon dioxide because maybe we paused or slowed our breathing down, there’s this kind of frantic message that goes to our brain that says, no, no, no, you need to inhale, inhale. So it kind of holds us in this cycle. So in order to train our breath and get out of this, we have to actually start to exhale more and to tell ourselves when we start to get that message, to take in more air that it’s OK, it’s all right, we’re fine so that we can get those chemoreceptors to come back to a sense of regulation and not be overactive to rises in carbon dioxide. And I know I’ve put a lot out there. Is this making sense so far?
Darren: It makes perfect sense. And I just keep coming back to what you said earlier. It just connects so many things for me, because just from the diaphragmatic breathing element and your posture. OK, so let’s say for argument’s sake, that a lot of people listening to this have their space jobs. And if you’re sitting at a desk all day and you’re hunched over your ribcage is not going to be in its most optimum position. Therefore, your diaphragm is not going to be in the best position. And like you said, you’re going to be recruiting all these other areas, all these other muscle groups to breathe. And I just think that really joins the dots for me from a mobility standpoint as well, because already they know inefficiently breathing, you’re using other areas of the body that will help you but are not optimal. And so once you start to kind of sort of your posture out and you start to be aware of your breathing, I mean, that must be so huge for people with just general daily lives and health once they understand that.
Dana: Absolutely, yeah. Yes, and we’re just even just scratching the surface, so I’m so glad that you brought up that kind of deskbound posture because there’s even more to the diaphragm in terms of being a postural and a core muscle that has an influence on that. And again, it’s like this vicious cycle, because if you’re in that posture, you’re feeding your breathing pattern to hold that posture in a very dysfunctional way. And that’s because. So I mentioned how the diaphragm attaches to your ribs, which I think most people realize. But there are two things that a lot of people don’t realize is that the diaphragm also has a major attachment to your lumbar spine. So your low back. Right. And here’s the really interesting part here. Here’s where you can tell them really and hear about this, because I think it’s fascinating.
Darren: It’s really cool.
Dana: Yeah. So the really interesting part is that the attachment at the diaphragm is attached to your lumbar spine. Yeah, it intersects with our souls, Major, which is our primary hip flexor.
Dana: Ok, so it intersects with ours as major and in cadavers. So in dead people, they are not able to dissect the two because they essentially become like one muscle at that attachment, which means the tension or lack thereof feeds off each other. Right. So now think about this. When you’re in that seated position, right. Your hips are flexed. Yeah. So those hip flexors become shortened and tightened, which means that they’re going to have tension at your lumbar spine at that attachment where they intersect with your diaphragm. And then let’s go back to what state is your diaphragm stuck in when you’re in that position? So your diaphragm, remember, is stuck in a contracted or semi-contracted state. A contracted muscle is tense. Yeah. So they are just feeding tension into each other, which makes it so much harder to break out of that state. And so I’m sure so many of your listeners have tight hip flexors. Yeah, right. They have upper body tension from the breathing pattern that we’ve discussed in the posture that comes with it. And then also tight hip flexors, again, from the breathing pattern we’ve discussed in the posture that comes with it.
Darren: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s just amazing. I mean, what I was thinking about there was that, you know, this is pre anybody getting or facing any injuries. Right. So, you know, already you’re kind of on a downward spiral, right. With all these things happening in the body, just because of a lack of awareness in your posture and your breathing, it just kind of and if you think about that, really, you know, people would probably go through this for about 20 odd years of their life, OK, until they actually get injured. You know, and I guess with sportsmen as well, that they’d probably try and optimize their posture and their body. But then the performance gains that they would get off the back of understanding this are huge.
Dana: Oh, absolutely. Well, so if we’re talking about posture and movement, let’s take it another step further. And remember, a lot of this is happening because your ribcage is not moving right. Your ribcage isn’t moving. The ribcage needs to move to facilitate the contraction and relaxation of the diaphragm. And one point that I want to make that I should have made before is when we talk about diaphragmatic breathing, I tend to put the word functional in front of it because I want people to understand that all functional breathing is diaphragmatic. It should it’s your primary breathing muscle going back to the bicep. That’s like saying that, you know, I only use my bicep for deep elbow flexion because people, you know, they think that the diaphragmatic breathing is only deep breathing. You know, your diaphragm should be involved in every breath you take. Yeah. With few exceptions, where there is an exception to this rule. The reason that we can breathe in this upper chest-oriented pattern is that it’s an adaptive pattern. It’s not a pattern we’re supposed to live in, but it’s an adaptive pattern to keep us alive in instances when we don’t have access to our diaphragm. And so the instances would be when you’re sprinting in a sprint, right. Is a very short time period. When you’re sprinting, you’re not going to get as much of that ribcage movement to facilitate diaphragm contraction and relaxation, although there will be some. But you still need to breathe.
So you’re going to be able to use these muscles to do that. The important thing is as soon as the sprint ends, you go back into functional diaphragmatic breathing as opposed to being stuck there. And then I do a lot of work with special forces and the military. First responders and think about all the gear, the packs, whether it’s bulletproof vests or, you know, the giant backpacks they have to carry, that really restricts any kind of rib cage movement. Yeah, right. And they need to be able to stay alive. So they’re going to have these adaptive patterns that are going to allow them to breathe. But when they take off the bulletproof vest and the packs and all of that stuff, they need to be able to come back to functional diaphragmatic breathing. So for the rest of us who sit at a desk, yeah, you know what? Sometimes we’re going to be in a posture at our desk that isn’t going to allow us to breathe as functionally as we might. And so we may go into one of those adaptive patterns. It’s not great to do that. No, but let’s say it happens. OK, but as long as we have, as you’ve been pointing out, kind of that conscious awareness to check in with our breath when we get up from the desk, let’s go back to functional breathing. Let’s make sure that we’re breathing the best that we can.
Darren: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So now we understand that people listening has gone a bit more of that. So how can we start to, on a daily basis, improve our breathing, which improves our posture or improves our posture? I mean, what type of things would you recommend that we start to do that are just basically put into our daily routines?
Dana: Oh, well, that’s a great question. And as I said before, I want to take you through a quick breathing exercise so that and it’s what you would be doing for yourself on a daily basis. And I do realize that I went on my own tangent to explain that last point. And I didn’t come back to what I did want to tell you guys about movement. So because we had talked about breathing, posture, and the tie-in with the hip flexors, I wanted to address rotation. And when we rotate, we should be aware that we should be rotating from the middle of our spine and in pro sports, we call it spine rotation. So maybe people have heard that T spine rotation just stands for thoracic spine and it’s the middle of your back and we should be rotating from the middle of our back. When we get into trouble and we pull out our backs is when we’re rotating from our lower back instead of our mid-back, because your lower back is meant to be stable and it’s not meant to rotate. And so I’m sure there are plenty of people, myself included, who have herniated a lumbar disc because of rotating from your lower back. It can happen so easily if we don’t have that function of our T spine. And what’s funny is, especially in working in pro sports, before I started to go down the road with breathing and understanding it as a movement pattern, I would do these exercises for my spine rotation that didn’t have anything to do with breathing or rib movement.
And now I mean I really literally it’s like a facepalm now that I know what I know because what attaches to your thoracic spine. Your ribs, your ribs attached to your thoracic spine, your thoracic spine is not going to rotate independent of your ribs, there is no possible way, right. So if our ribs are stuck, how are we going to rotate from the middle of our back? We’re not. And so when we’re when our body is calling it when we call upon our bodies to rotate, it’s our body is going to oblige and do what it can. And we don’t have ribs attached to our lumbar spine. So it’s going to try to rotate from our lower back. And then that’s when we’re going to be playing golf and we’re going to wrench our back because we’re not rotating from the right spot. And it all comes back to these immobile ribs that are part of a movement pattern, which is the active breathing that’s happening 20 thousand times a day and we’re just not doing it right. So it virtually impacts everything. So I just wanted to make that point, get people to start understanding, because when I say breathing is a movement pattern.
Yeah. Yeah. What does that mean? So now that you know that it’s a movement pattern, we want to treat it as such. So we want to treat it as an exercise that we do on a daily basis. And I like to take it because I want to do it for both physical and mental benefits. Yeah, I like to do this exercise. That’s six breaths at a pace of five, seven, three, and that’s a five-count inhale, a seven-count exhale, and then a three-count pause after the exhale. Now that pause, I always put an asterisk next to it because if you’re exhaling for a seven-count, you can continue to exhale. When I say pause, continue to exhale through the pause because remember Muñiz in the exhale, and what we’re trying to do is retrain ourselves from a physical standpoint to be able to get those ribs to come in back and down and let the diaphragm relax. But then from a physiological standpoint, we’re trying to get those chemoreceptors I mentioned in our brain, our brainstem to calm down and be OK with this rise in carbon dioxide. Right. So five, seven, three. And then I have us do this. You can do this from any position virtually. You could be seated standing up. You can be lying down.
If I’m doing it in an exercise setting, I do it from a position I call a breathing bridge, which is almost like a glute bridge position. So you’re on your back on the floor and you’re lifting your hips just a little bit off the ground. And there’s a reason that that’s kind of the optimal position for doing this. But it still works just to do it from a seated position. And that’s what I’d like to do right now, is have you’re in a seated position, you’re going to place your hands on your lower ribs. So the ribs where you can feel and you should actually take your fingers and just feel the edge of that for a sternal angle, that split so that you know where that is. And then just lay your fingers across your ribs so you feel your ribs underneath your hands. Yeah. And then you’re going to start with an exhale. So this exhales that we do to kind of set the foundation doesn’t count for our six breaths. It’s just an exhale. You’re going to exhale and try to get all of the air out. Remember, ideally, we’re going to do this out of our nose. We’re definitely going to inhale our nose. So we exhale. Let all the air out and treat it like a core exercise, you should tell your obliques definitely.
Darren: Definitely feel.
Dana: Yeah, good then. Slow inhale. And hopefully, your hands start to move out with your ribs and then exhale for seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, pause, two, three, then inhale. Two, three, four, five, exhale. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Pause, two, three, inhale. Two, three, four, five, exhale. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Pause, two, three, inhale. Two, three, four, five, exhale. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Pause, two, three, inhale. Two, three, four, five, exhale. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Pause two, three. Last time, inhale. Two, three, four, five. Exhale. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. Pause two, three. And then you can let yourself come back to hopefully a better, more optimized breathing pattern, but more of your regular breathing pattern and you’d want to practice that consciously at least once a day. OK, and really focus on that rib movement, treat it more like a core exercise than a breathing exercise.
Darren: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the muscles that you could feel, the muscles tension, you know. But what I was quite surprised about is that the ribs, that rib cage really expanded. I didn’t expect it to move as much as it did. It was almost like someone’s kind of prizing it apart, but in a big way, which is quite, quite interesting.
Dana: Yes, yeah, well, and that’s wonderful that you did experience that I want. I want to be clear for some people who might have tried that and they’re like, my ribs really didn’t move much, as you had pointed out. I mean, this could be five, 10, 20 years of being in the breathing pattern that you’re in. And sometimes it takes a little bit of work. And I have seen all variations of being stuck in breathing patterns. And what I can tell you is that give it two weeks, do this every day, give it two weeks, and you’re going to notice a change. And there are measurable changes now, like from a physical standpoint. But there are also, you’ll notice, psychological and physiological stuff, too, because this is as much as we were just training our breathing and it felt kind of like a core exercise as I had directed you where you’re turning your core on. You’re still getting that same physiological benefit of having functionally. Because did you notice how as much as there was work when you were done, there was still that sense of.
Yeah, calm. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So that’s really neat. Now, what I also want to stress is that I’m not expecting you to be using your abs to breathe all day long. This is a training exercise to restore the mobility of your ribs. But then when you’re on autopilot and you’re breathing and you’re in a functional pattern, you’re going to be not very aware. Oh, I apologize. I, I don’t know if you can hear my dogs. I have five rescue dogs and I think they heard someone outside, but. Yes. So you’re not going to be as aware of that rib movement. But what I want to make sure that you start to become aware of is those times when the breathing is really in your upper body and there’s movement in your shoulders, your neck, your collarbone, that shouldn’t be happening. It shouldn’t be vertical. But one of the things that I do in professional sports to get Buy-In really from the athletes so that they understand that this really works is I will do a measure of internal and external shoulder rotation before we do our breathing exercise, OK? And then I’ll remeasure it and they can increase by about 30 degrees just as one set of five or six breaths in. Do you understand why that happens? No. OK, so remember, we take up to twenty thousand breaths a day. If you’re in that compensatory upper chest breathing pattern, your recruiting muscles aren’t supposed to be breathing for you.
So that’s a.. Shoulder peck, neck upper traps. So upper back. Those aren’t breathing muscles, but you’re using them as breathing muscles and they’re firing twenty thousand times a day. So now you’ve created this chronic tension. OK, so as soon as I stop that from happening and I bring the breathing back to the primary breathing muscle, yeah, that tension goes away. It’s gone. And that’s why there’s this immediate change in shoulder mobility. If we were measuring t spine rotation, the same thing would happen. The immediate change in T spine rotation. The other cool thing is, remember what I told you about the hips, how the diaphragm integrates with the so as to the hip flexors. I can show an immediate change in internal hip rotation as well by changing your breathing. No stretching involved. So I mean showing that to athletes, I can get immediate buy-in with, with folks at home. I mean you can do the same thing, see how your shoulders feel, you know, do some arm circles beforehand, do some arm circles afterward, do some rotation beforehand, do it afterward, notice the changes in your body because it’s also only going to increase your own body awareness. And the more we’re aware of how our body works and feels, then the better we’re going to control it.
Darren: Yeah, I think I think not. That point alone for me is so profound because generally as humans, we always love to look for the complicated. And what you’ve explained is very complicated. However, the practice of how you implement this is relatively straightforward. Right. And the benefits are just huge. I mean, I work with so many guys who have taught hip flexors. It seems to be, you know, the guy thing. I have just constantly tight hip flexors. And just by doing that birthweight to get that mobility, because, I mean, the hips are so, so important, you know, that that’s just incredible. So. For the guys listening at home, obviously, you’ve given them a practice that we can try in the morning and I do work in the garden in the morning, so I will change my breathwork now as a result and I’ll start using this practice. But what other tips could you recommend that people are listening? Listen to the podcast today that they could implement into a daily routine.
Dana: Well, so, again, being conscious of your breathing and doing this, practicing this five, seven, three, I mean, one way to do it, which is I also do this, is do it before you get out of bed. Have it. You open your eyes. I mean, it’s literally 90 seconds because five, seven, three is 15 seconds for each breath. You take six of them. That’s 90 seconds. And research has shown that that’s what elicits your relaxation response so that you know it down, regulates your nervous system again, sir, with the puppies. But so you’d be wanting to do that. You can do it in the morning at those times at your desk when you start to notice your posture changing. Absolutely. Do it then and then if and I hope it is if fitness is part of exercising as part of your regular routine, then add it to your warm-up. And if you’re doing it as a warm-up, I would recommend that breathing bridge that I was talking about. So it’s the same thing. You’re still going to have your hands on your ribs in that position. It’s just your supine. So you’re on your back and you’re going to start with that exhale that we started with where you’re setting the foundation. So you exhale, you’ll feel your core engage, and then you use your glutes to posteriorly, tilt your pelvis, which means you’re just trying to it’s almost like you’re tucking your tailbone under as you lift your hips up three or four inches and then you hold that position and you take your six breaths like that, OK.
And so adding that into your and that’s where I’ve seen it make the biggest difference because of the context of my work. Right. Working in professional sports, I put this in all of the warm-ups of all of the athletes that I work with, regardless of sport. And this is where I’ve come up with those two weeks that I said where you actually see a change. So if we’re measuring let’s say it’s a hockey goaltender and we’re measuring the differences in its internal hip rotation, I know that even though we see a big difference right away, he doesn’t own that because, again, he’s been stuck in this breathing pattern for so long. But within two weeks, the starting point of internal hip rotation measurement starts to look more like the endpoint that we saw at the very beginning because now you start to own the pattern, which means now you know that you’re breathing better overall because it’s noticeable throughout your body.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I would love to, I mean, I’m just conscious of time, but I’d love to delve off into the realms of sleep because I would imagine that once you master this consciously in the day, the impact on sleep must be huge.
Dana: Yes. Yeah. So it’s for sure.
Darren: Dana, before I let you go, obviously you’ve got lots of programs and books and stuff out like that. The listeners could go and look up. So where could people connect with you? Have a look at your stuff online.
Dana: My website is mobilitymaker.com and I’m on social media most mostly on Instagram, and that’s @mobilitymaker. And I do breathe a better one on one online program. That is not just for athletes. I did it for everyone. I even talk about the impact of breathing on autism because my son is on the autism spectrum. And if you want to talk about having a profound impact, using breathing in his therapy had a profound impact. It’s incredible. And I do tell that story in that program. But I share all of the exercises that we have discussed. I share the breathing bridge there. And I’d be happy to provide a discount code for them. Yeah. So we can provide a discount code to put in the show notes.
Darren: Yeah. OK, yeah. That’ll be amazing.
Dana: Absolutely. But I do so much on social media in terms of offering free access to exercises, so I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to sell your folks on the program. But I do want them to know that, yes, I put out this information because breathing is a superpower and it’s science, but it’s not rocket science. So we should all have access to it.
Darren: Yeah. And I think that’s the thing. Right. You know, you clearly have gone into great depth to understand the science and everything else behind it. But the actual implementation of it is quite straightforward, isn’t it? So, yeah, I really, really appreciate your time today. I’m super, super interested in coming on to the podcast. And so before I let you go, is there anything that I didn’t ask you which you feel I should have asked you, which would benefit the listeners?
Dana: No, I mean, I think we could have an entire second podcast. Yeah, I just talked about the physiological impact and the impact on our psychology. I mean, the impact on our ability to regulate ourselves and just for mental performance. Yeah, I mean, we all, especially as we’re aging, all want to be sharper. And this is a key component to that. And actually, I’m working with a neurofeedback, a neuroscience company that makes a neurofeedback headband. Yeah. And I have breathing protocols in the app for this headband. And you can measure the impact on your brain state. It’s wow. And this is accessible for everyone. So it’s called focus, calm. And actually, my stuff is all being put in the app in May. So that’s something neat that people might want to look into because then you can actually see in real-time what the breathing is doing to your brain state. It’s fascinating.
Darren: Yeah, that does sound fascinating. Like you. I would love to have you back on the podcast again. I think we could do so many more episodes on sleep, on, you know, performance and. Yeah, some. But now I really appreciate your time today, Dana, and we’ll put that discount in the show notes and we’ll link to your stuff in the show notes. But yeah. Thank you very much for coming on the podcast.
Dana: Thank you.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe. And I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the things mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at fitterhealthierdad.com