Breathing should be simple right?
Just suck some air in and then blow it out again.
And really most people don't give a second thought to how they get that air in and out -
"it just happens"
But in day to day living the way you breathe can have a big impact on the way you feel.
Try this simple test:
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and relax.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
Take a few normal resting breaths and note which hand raises up the most. Repeat several times and see what the normal movement feels like for you.
Then take several larger breathes and watch what happens this time.
Which hand raises first and the most?
Ideally you want to have the diaphragm working to pull air into your lungs. This means that your belly needs to raise up to allow for the diaphragm that sits under your lungs to move downwards.
Importantly in the lower parts of the lung there is large surface areas available for oxygen to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
This is great news for a body that requires Oxygen - so long as the fresh oxygen rich air reaches this far into the lungs.
However, if your chest elevates first and the most, chances are that fresh air is not reaching as deep, and that you are using muscles of the chest and neck to breathe.
This is not so good.
From a pain perspective we often see people with chronic neck tightness and shoulder pain that are using the neck and chest muscles to breathe.
This is not deliberate and 9 times out of 10 they have no idea that they are doing it.
But it is a sure fire way to increase neck tension, increase fatigue levels and as anyone who has ever experienced breathing difficulties can tell you - it can trigger feelings of anxiousness and stress as well.
So what can you do about it?
The answer is simple........ practice.
Lay on the floor or in bed in the same position that you just did the test in. Place your hands in the same position once again - with one on your chest and one on your abdomen.
Focus on breathing in and drawing air down towards your belly without allowing your upper chest to move much at all. Slowly keep repeating this pattern until it feels more natural.
Here is a quick link to a youtube video by Kai Wheeler showing how this diaphragmatic breathing looks:
To assist in this feeling being more natural and powerful you can put some additional weight on your abdomen ( a book, a small hand weight etc) and breath in again - this time against the resistance of the weight.
A lot of people report that slow deliberate breathing like this before going to bed can improve their ability to fall asleep and calms the body.
As we mentioned before though - it can also be a great reliever of the pressure and stress an the neck and shoulder muscles - so give it a try.
I hope that you enjoy trying this out. Once again, it is our hope at Body and Spine Solutions that we can provide you with valuable resources for improving the way you feel and function. It is all part of our Body and Spine Project for a Healthy Orange.
Please feel free to share this with a friend.
Andrew Blyth and the Team at Body and Spine Solutions Orange