A breath of fresh air …. Do it right and boost your life!
In our busy modern lives, through stress, overly sedentary jobs or chronic respiratory illnesses our lovely deep breathing mechanics can get dramatically altered. We can find ourselves: shallow, rapid breathing; mouth breathing; upper rib breathing; holding our breath somewhere in the cycle; or over-breathing (hyperventilating) leading to many health consequences.
We talk a lot about ‘movement’ in Osteopathy because we know the body loves it! With good breathing comes good posture which means more space for organs and less stress on the pelvic floor. Deep diaphragm breaths massage the gut aiding bowel movements, whilst breathing out for longer than we breathe in helps switch off the adrenalin fuelled Sympathetic (‘fight or flight’) nervous system and switch on the calm Parasympathetic (‘rest and digest’) nervous system.
For beautiful breathing mechanics just watch a baby sleeping…
So what changed? Stress
Long term stress causes shallow, rapid breathing itself leading to more stress. Long term / chronic stress caused by rushing through life, anxiety, chronic pain or trauma elevates cortisol levels within the body resulting in detrimental effects on the immune system, digestion, mood, energy levels, sleep, and blood pressure.
Again, poor posture can cause poor breathing and vice versa!
Rounded postures caused by regular prolonged sitting and lack of core strength curve the shoulders in, bring the head forward and squash the diaphragm. This reduces the capacity for deep breathing forcing smaller, faster breaths in to the upper chest. Similarly, rapid, shallow breathing recruits the extra muscles of respiration causing neck, shoulder and upper chest tightness.
Chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, COPD, sleep apnea and even stubborn colds and coughs recruit the extra respiratory muscles in the neck and upper chest to help force air through restricted airways. This then follows the poor posture / breathing cycle hampering the sufferer even more.
So how can you improve your breathing?
- Breathing techniques: such as 4/7 breathing – breathe in to your abdomen whilst counting to 4 then slowly exhale to the count of 7. This can take practice and you can build it up slowly but a few of these a day can improve your wellbeing through increased parasympathetic activity. Also look up: roll breathing and box breathing.
- Join a singing group: British lung foundation promote singing groups to help people with lung conditions learn singing techniques and strengthen their voices.
- Improve your posture: through advice, better work stations and practice.
- Exercise: Increase your lung capacity and energy levels.
- Get treatment and advice: Osteopathic treatment can help reduce muscle tensions that are preventing deep breathing and always seek medical advice from your GP for unmanaged respiratory illnesses.
For any more advice or treatment, please contact our Osteopaths at The Odiham Clinic.
Katie Clayton, Associate Osteopath