We all know how to breathe, right? It’s a natural and essential function of life. But do we know how to breathe efficiently? Effectively?
How does the quality of how we breathe affect aspects of our daily lives?
Often the muscles and fascia of our respiratory system can be restricted and can impede the quality of our breathing and often lead to tension (and sometimes pain). Working on those areas can release that tension and improve respiratory function.
Deep Breath Test: From either a comfortable seated position, or laying on your back, knees bent, feet flat in the floor. Place your right hand on belly, left hand on chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Are you breathing through your neck and chest only? Or are you pulling air through your diaphragm? Did your hands move when you breathed in? Did you feel any tension along your sides, back or chest?
What are some of the treatments that can help improve our breathing
Massage Therapy: Having your Registered Massage Therapist work on the soft tissue around your respiratory system: the diaphragm, rib intercostals, scalenes (lateral neck muscles) and quadratus lumborum with Fascial techniques*. This can help improve movement and reduce tension of the thoracic cage, therefore improving breath function.
Some secondary benefits to Fascial work to our respiratory tissue is the reduction in back pain. If the anterior fascial lines are restricted and causing tension – there can be painful referral pain to your back.
Pilates/Yoga: Working with a trained instructor, Pilates and Yoga teaches you techniques to help improve both breath and movement through your thoracic spine.
Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing: Just like the breathing test from above, get into a seated or laying position, with your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. Place hands on your knees if you are sitting, or on your belly if you are laying down. Inhale slowly through your nose moving the air to your diaphragm. You should feel your belly, chest and ribcage expand. Your neck and shoulders should remain as still as possible.
On the exhale, tighten your stomach muscles as you breath out slowly through your nose. You want to hear your exhale, almost like a “Darth Vader” breath coming out of your nose.
Inhale on a count of 1-2-3-4. Hold for a count of 2. Exhale for a count of 4-3-2-1. Listen to your breath. See if you become more relaxed as it goes. If you lose focus, just come back to your breath count. This exercise can calm the mind and body in situations of stress.
Purifying Fire Breath: This energizing technique cleanses your respiratory system, while strengthening and increasing your lung capacity. It’s great for athletes to help enhance performance. From a seated or plank position, take 2-3 deep breaths in and out through your nose. On the next breath, inhale deeply, then exhale rhythmically by contracting your abdominals 20-30 times. Each exhale should be short, audible and through pursed lips.
What are some other benefits to improved thoracic movement and breath
Strengthening the diaphragm and using less effort and energy to breathe. Integrating core/breath function can also maximize oxygen intake and carbon dioxide outtake to our tissue, which leads to:
- better athletic performance
- faster recovery
- tension/anxiety relief
- less aches and pains
- better sleep
It takes time to adjust to new breathing patterns. But with the benefits of breath, you’ll find you’re breathing well and moving well in no time. Who wouldn’t want that?
*Fascial work is an advanced and aggressive technique – it should be noted that it can be uncomfortable and sometimes elicits either painful or emotional responses.
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