Updated: Jan 27, 2021
We need to breathe to live, we do it all the time…so why do we sometimes hold our breath when dancing or exercising?
You would be surprised how many times people need to be told to breathe while performing physical activity. How often do you hold your breath while performing a pirouette? Or sit-ups? Or a plank? It is far more common than you may think.
People instinctively tend to hold their breath as a way of stabilizing the torso, however, building your strength this way means the breath holding becomes a crutch and we find our core muscles are not as strong without it and can be potentially dangerous. Especially for performers such as musical theatre performers, who eventually need to be able to sing while being able to control the core muscles, we need to make sure that breathing is a part of training from the beginning!
If you find yourself holding your breath when performing particular movements then this is a habit you need to get out of!
Why do we breathe? Because our body needs oxygen. This is still true when we exercise. Your body especially needs oxygen during physical activity to fuel your muscles in order for them to function properly.
Holding your breath will build up the CO2 in your body which will cause you muscles to tire more quickly, so proper use of breath will help you to last longer in your workouts.
If you find you are holding your breath during high intensity physical activity you could potentially produce the vasalva effect, this is where your blood pressure rises because you are exerting and holding your breath, followed by a sudden drop in blood pressure which can lead to feeling dizzy or nauseous.
Tips for sorting out your breathing
When you are training- breathe out on the harder part of the movement (the concentric phase) and breathe in on the eccentric phase of the movement. This will help engage you transverse abdominis, a deep, stabilising core muscle that runs horizontally from front to back in between your ribs and your pelvis.
For example, if you are performing a press up- breathe in as you lower yourself down and breathe out as you push yourself back up.
When your dancing- use you breathing pattern to work with your movement, timing your breathing correctly can add to the quality of the dynamics of your movement.
OR if you are performing any advanced movements or movements that require more strength and effort then try breathing in during your preparation and breathing out during the movement itself to help stabilise your torso and support your spine.
Next time you are either dancing/ preforming or exercising in any way, take a moment to check in on yourself, make sure you are breathing through your movements and make it your new normal.