Breathing is a process that we take for granted. Oxygen flows into the body as we breathe in, and carbon dioxide exits the body as we breathe out. As long as our bodies are healthy, breathing is just something that happens, whether or not we are thinking about it.
But here’s the deal—most people do not take advantage of their lung capacity! We can take short shallow breaths or long deep breaths. Guess which one is better for you? That’s right—the long deep breaths! It is much more efficient, and helps other parts of the body get the oxygen they need as well, including the muscles!! A large majority of our patients, whether they are having pain in that area are not, are engaging the wrong muscles for breathing. We find these muscles above and below the collar bone. These muscles are their to help with breathing, but should not be engaged regularly.
This is most prevalent in people who have to sit and work for long periods of time without ergonomic support. We hunch forward while typing. Our necks shift forward, our rib cage rounds, our hip flexors tense up, and our core gets weak. When our hip flexors get tight, it pulls on our diaphragm. If the diaphragm is tense, we tend to breathe more shallowly. And then, we start relying on those muscles were really not supposed to be using.
The team at Active Release Techniques has compiled research on how the lack of oxygen effects the tension in a muscle. The tissue deprived of oxygen creates extra strain, knots, adhesions—which do not allow the muscle to perform the way they should. When muscles get overly tight like this, they put a lot of pressure on the joints in our body. When the muscles are unable to freely move, and the joints are unable to freely move, other muscles and joints have to compensate. And this is how most of the pain complexes that we treat develop.
Sometimes, it’s very difficult to breathe deeply when you are in a lot of pain, but you need to! Here is a basic technique:
- Place your hand on your stomach.
- Breathe as deeply as you can. You will feel your stomach sink in.
- Breathe out as much as possible. Really push the breath out, causing your stomach to also push out.
- Don’t be concerned about how your stomach looks! It is very common in the West to worry about having a flatter abdomen, but yogis in India have been doing this for thousands of years, and literally no one cares. It’s about health, not looks!
When you breathe through your pain, it is more manageable. Additional benefits include: decreased stress; increased focus; stronger lungs; loosening of muscles; engaging appropriate muscles; and overall function of the necessary processes in your body!
Try to take a few moments every day to practice breathing. You will definitely notice a difference!
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