Beginners in Essentrics sometimes wonder how we should breathe while doing the workout. Whether it is Miranda teaching via her DVDs or a certified teacher leading a class, we would get occasional cues to inhale and exhale with the movements. However, these breathing cues do not appear consistent from workout to workout, or from one instructor to the other. So what is the protocol, if there is one?
Essentrics is a movement program that is technique-based. One of the techniques is deep breathing, which helps to release stress and tension from our body. It also helps to contract and lengthen our muscles. A simple example is abs toning when we do crunches. When we squeeze our abs, we exhale and contract the abs. Then we keep those very same muscles engaged as we inhale and stretch them, building strength and flexibility at the same time.
Although deep breathing is a useful and important technique, unlike some other programs Essentrics isn't centered around it. Depending on the objective(s) for a specific movement or the entire workout, an instructor can apply deep breathing judiciously.
Take our arms, for example. Compare two different ways to cue the same movement:
- Lift one arm (to shoulder height). Imagine a brick in your hand, lift it to the ceiling. (STRENGTH)
- Lift one arm (to shoulder height). Inhale, exhale, stretch the arm away from the shoulder, reach to the ceiling. (FLEXIBILITY & MOBILITY)
The two movements are the same, but the first cue tones the arm while the second cue improves flexibility (of the arm muscles) and mobility (of the shoulder plus elbow joint). By using the imagery of a brick in our hand, we create tension and resistance, toning and strengthening the arm. By exhaling while reaching the arm further, our arm stays relaxed and can therefore extend farther out and up. This improves flexibility and creates more space for the elbow and the shoulder joint, improving joint mobility.
Note that both examples cited above would strengthen and lengthen the arm simultaneously - but the PRIMARY objectives are different. In the first example, even though the focus is on strength, the arm is stretched out, so we are also enhancing flexibility. In the second example, even though the focus is on flexibility and mobility, the arm muscles also get toned because the very act of lifting an extended arm at a moderate pace requires strength - indeed, all movements require strength. Therefore, the objectives of strength and flexibility aren't mutually exclusive. We can simply choose to emphasize one over the other, or balance the two.
This is the reason why there isn't a protocol for breathing when we do Essentrics. An instructor can decide on the primary objective of a movement and use deep breathing as a technique with discretion. By the same token, many of the movements can be varied by changing the techniques. If there is a short answer to how to breathe when we do Essentrics, it is to simply "inhale, exhale" as we keep moving. We need the oxygen!