“If you can’t breathe, you might as well be dead!” were wise words spoken by the Italian mother of my neighbor. I have been reminded of them throughout my life, most often when suffering from a malady that diminishes my breathing capacity. The motto in our household has always been that if you’re well enough to complain, then you’re probably well enough to get teased a bit ;).

When preparing for class, I usually think of a handful of poses/exercises that I want to do that will cover the shoulders, hips, and everything in between for anyone who walks in the door. The plan always ends up changing, depending on who comes to class that day, but I have found that every body part usually gets covered.

In class this week though, I had a thought – what if our movement practices, our yoga, and our exercises, were really for the respiratory diaphragm – the primary “breather” in our body? (Read more about the respiratory diaphragm in a previous post)

Think about it – you stretch to become more flexibile, which improves your posture, which then helps you breathe. You exercise so that your heart and lungs impvoe their capacity that then helps you breathe easier. What if improving the breath is what it’s all about and we haven’t realized it?

Without changing your workout, what if you altered the intent of your routine, putting the diaphragm and the breath first, would your workout have to change?

Many times when I see photos of people in some amazingly contorted position, all I can think is “why?” Why do I need to be able to put my feet behind my head while balancing on my pinky finger? Will it help me stand taller? Will have I have less pain? Will I be able to breathe better? Probably not.

As we look forward to the future, we should be expecting our bodies to outperform us, not anticipating the eventual breakdown. Yes, we age. Yes, traumatic and unavoidable injuries happen. But the amateur athlete/human should not be tearing things and in constant pain that progressively get worse as they age. We should demand more of ourselves. And maybe the piece of the puzzle that has been missing is the breath…

I practice and teach Yoga Tune Up® because I see the changes in both my body and my student’s bodies. I see that we stand taller and are more aware of our spinal position in relation to the rest of our body. I know in my own body, this improved awareness and embodiment has allowed me to lift more, run faster, and become more fit than I ever imagined possible.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think I am the only one who fully intends on being active until the very end. Age is simply a measurement of movement, not time. So get moving, and if you already are, be sure that you working to improve your spinal position and breathing capacity. Your spine only houses your brain, and we are nothing without the breath, right? :)

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.