Column: How to use ‘crocodile breathing’ in your life
March 27, 2018
Breathing is similar to any other movement pattern, and when treated as such, promotes proper activation strategies.
Similarly, breathing incorrectly can greatly hinder performance.
Unfortunately, most individuals breathe incorrectly by way of shallow chest breaths. A major issue with shallow breathing is its inefficiency and incapability of activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This leaves one in the "fight or flight" mode, which is unsustainable in the long term.
Unlocking the "secret" to proper breathing is rather easy but must be practiced similar to a movement such as a squat or deadlift. One of the most popular ways to learn correctly is "crocodile breathing," a term coined by Gray Cook, of the popular Functional Movement Systems program.
How to Crocodile Breathe
In order to crocodile breathe you must first start in a prone position (lying on your stomach) while being totally relaxed. Next, place one hand on top of the other directly under your forehead with the palms facing down. Keep your legs straight with the toes pointed and relax as best as possible while in this position. From here, you will begin the actual breathing process.
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Contrary to what most individuals do, you will inhale by filling your belly and pushing your stomach in to the ground. Take it slow and let the breath last approximately 4-6 seconds. This is what true deep diaphragmatic breathing should feel like. Hold the position with your belly pushing against the floor for another 2-4 seconds, and lastly you will exhale 4-6 seconds letting your belly return to its resting place.
It may feel difficult at first, and quite opposite of how you are used to breathing. Start slow and emphasize quality over quantity. Simply 1 minute per day can be enough to elicit change if you are consistent. Work your way up to 3-5 minutes at a time, multiple bouts per day. Doing this will teach your body proper expansion throughout the entire diaphragm and allow for greater delivery of air than a shallow chest breath.
Why crocodile breathing?
My favorite times to use crocodile breathing are pre- and post-workout. It serves as an excellent activation tool if the breaths are more intentional, or more like a recovery tool if the breaths are long and relaxed. Other times that this can be useful are prior to bed, in the morning, when you're stressed or just need to break up the day.
Not only should you think about proper breathing when practicing this drill, but you should aim to do the same throughout your day. While sitting in your office, driving to work or reading a book, you can consciously practice this technique as well.
If this topic interests you, then I encourage you to research the work of Gray Cook and his literature on proper breathing techniques. Thanks for reading.
Jimmy Pritchard has a B.S. from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the Assistant Strength Coach at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. Pritchard's passion is to help others meet, and often exceed, their goals in all areas of fitness. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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