There are six different ways in which you can change the pattern of your breathing as well as varying degrees to which these changes take place. You can change your:
- Depth of Breathing – can be deep or shallow or anywhere between the two extremes.
- Rate of Breathing – may be fast, slow or somewhere between the two. By a fast breath I mean in excess of 20 inhalations and exhalations per minute and by slow I mean as few as two in sixty seconds. A rate of between 12 and 17 is usually considered “normal” although it varies slightly between men and women.
- Texture of Breathing – ranges from smooth and even to erratic and uneven.
- Length of Breathing – are your inhalations and exhalations of a similar duration or is one noticeably longer or shorter than the other? Differences in the length of each breath are not necessarily a bad thing or a sign of dysfunctional breathing – indeed such variations form the basis for several of the procedures are taught in the Bo-Tau
- Location of Breathing – may take place low down in the body or high up in the chest. Again the part of your anatomy from which you breathe plays an important role in levels of mental and physical arousal.
- Quality of Breathing – can be laboured and effortful, as when trying to catch one’s breath after overly vigorous exertion or so effortless that it occurs without your being consciously aware of the fact.
Given that each one of these six can vary widely as can the interactions between them, it is easy to see how complex and diverse the changes in our patterns of breathing can quickly become.
Major changes, such as when we pant from exertion, fear or anger are apparent to everyone, as is the gasping, shallow, breathing characteristic of hyperventilation. However even the slightest variations in the rate and depth of our breathing can prove sufficient to undermine our performance on a wide range of activities. In many instances these variations may be so slight and subtle that we remain unaware they are even occurring or recognising their negative effects on performance.
This is because it often requires only a relatively minor increase or – less usually – decrease in our level of mental and physical arousal, to shift us out of what sports psychologist term the Zone of Optimal Individual Functioning (most professional sports people refer to it simply as being ‘in the Zone’) Click here for further information on staying in The Zone [LINK TO STAYING IN THE ZONE BLOG POST]