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How's Your Breathing?

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

How is your breathing? Do you breathe short, shallow breaths? Do your shoulders move up and down when you breathe? Do you breathe a deep breath into your belly?

Breathing is one of the most important things I talk to my clients about. Most of us do not breathe efficiently, which means we are not getting the most amount of oxygen out of each breath. Many people are only breathing shallow breaths into their upper lungs. They use their shoulders to help them breathe in and out. Over time this can be one contributing factor to neck and shoulder pain.

Also, if we aren't getting the full amount of oxygen out of each breath our brains and bodies aren't getting enough oxygen. This can lead to fatigue. It also means our body must work much harder each time it takes in air.

When we learn to breathe efficiently our bodies are happier and more relaxed. For many of my patients who are stressed or anxious we spend a lot of time learning how to breathe properly. Our breathing patterns set our body into fight or flight mode or it can direct our body into a more calm and relaxed state, just by changing the way we breathe.

Many yoga and Pilates practices focus a lot on breathing, which is so important and so helpful to healing and health.

Here is an example of proper breathing when lying down.

Notice when I breathe my chest is mostly relaxed and not moving and my belly is moving up and down instead. (I use my hands to emphasize this in the second breath). This is efficient breathing. My diaphragm is doing the work not the muscles of my chest and upper shoulders. The oxygen is reaching to the bottom of my lungs and able to send lots of oxygen rich blood throughout my body. My breathing is deep, full and slow. This isn't a rushed breath and it tells my body everything is okay and I can remain relaxed.

If you are doing something athletic, your breath will change. You will need faster, shallower breaths and that is appropriate for that activity, however when the athletic activity is over your breathing pattern should return to this.

Try it out. See how it feels. Notice if you feel more relaxed and less stressed when you breathe this way. Pay attention to how your shoulders and your body feel. Tune into your brain and notice if you feel more relaxed and calm, less anxious and stressed.

This is the foundation of nearly every treatment I do with my patients. It is especially important for my patients with neck pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, bladder control issues, constipation and diastasis recti. All these problems with the pelvis, abdomen and trunk can be made worse with poor breathing patterns creating abnormal pressures in the abdomen and pelvis. Breathing is the foundation for muscle patterns to correct these problems as well.

Share this video (also on my new YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) with someone who is stressed or anxious. Practice this breathing technique and let me know how you feel.

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