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The Breath of Life - Diaphragmatic Breathing!

Posted on November 13, 2017 at 1:10 AM

There’s been a lot said about diaphragmatic breathing. If you’re anything like me, I found most of it to be confusing! Breathing is not something most of us think about (unless you do something like yoga, take vocal lessons or massage therapy).

I didn’t really understand what it was until listening to a vocal coach by the name of Tim Carson. He made some interesting observations that for most of our lives, we’ve been told to “suck in our gut” which develops some rather terrible breathing habits. Let me ask you, have you ever watched a baby breathe in her sleep? A baby naturally breathes from the diaphragm. They breathe deeply, letting the air fill their belly (diaphragm) and they are totally relaxed!

From an early age, we're taught that breathing is part of our autonomic nervous system, like digesting food. But, unlike digestion, we actually have the ability to control our respiration! The way we breathe has the power to impact every aspect of our health and wellness, from how we think and feel to how we move.

Many of us recognize the link between breathing and physiology, particularly during times of stress, but most don't realize its reciprocal impact on our overall posture and mobility. Bad breathing creates tension and immobility. Immobility and tension prevent good breathing. What a vicious cycle!

If, like most people, your breathing is primarily chest oriented and shallow, your ribcage will get pulled into a lifted and flared state that compromises diaphragm function, requiring chest, neck, and upper back muscles to act as "accessory" breathing muscles. This causes chronic tension that locks you into a poor -- often painful -- posture with shoulders slumped forward, shoulder blades humped and your mid-back flattened.

What's more, when the diaphragm isn't being used properly for respiration, it becomes dysfunctional in its postural role, too, pulling into its attachments to your lumbar spine, causing disc compression. This chain reaction of tension from improper breathing doesn't just hurt and make it harder to move, it increases your risk of back, neck and shoulder injury.

You could spend multiple hours a day stretching and practicing "good" posture, but, because we take almost 1,000 breaths an hour, 24 hours per day, relief would only be temporary without correcting your breathing. So, to quote from a Forbes article, we need to “grab the controls and consciously change how we breathe.”

The research suggests that: when practiced consistently, diaphragmatic breathing not only results in lowered stress and anxiety but:

Results in lower blood pressure and heart rate - helping to prevent stroke and lower risk of cerebral aneurysm

Spark Brain Growth - Specifically, in areas associated with attention and processing of sensory input. The effect seems to be more noticeable in older people, which is especially good news because it’s the reverse of what typically happens as we age!

• Can alter the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion

Naturally increase levels of melatonin – contributing to a better night’s sleep!

In order to practice, I’ve included this wonderful visual from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation:

Diaphragmatic breathing technique

1. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe. (My vocal coach has us use a phone or hardcover book placed on the tummy as a further visual aid, which will rise and fall as you breathe.)

2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

3. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown on the first page. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair, as shown below.

To perform this exercise while sitting in a chair:

1. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.

2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

3. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

4. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Note: You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you'll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.

How often should I practice this exercise?

At first, practice this exercise 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen.

So the next time your massage therapist tells you to breathe as they work on a particularly painful trigger point, you now know how and why.

Breathe deeply... of life!


Vocal Artistry: Breathing Vocal Training CD Tim Carson

Breathe better to move better: Train to breathe like a pro athlete

By Dana Santas, Special to CNN Updated 7:41 AM ET, Thu October 8, 2015

Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress

Daniele Martarelli, * Mario Cocchioni, Stefania Scuri, and Pierluigi Pompei National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 932430. Published online 2011 Feb 10. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep169

Breathing And Your Brain: Five Reasons To Grab The Controls

Pharma & Healthcare www.forbes.com

MAY 14, 2013 @ 12:19 AM 102,160 The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets


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