For most of us, the only time we are aware of our breathing is when we exert ourselves, have a physical or emotional problem, or during the “breathing drills” we do before every workout at ALF.
Although the Central Nervous System controls breathing, the way we breathe is a habit and is considered to be one of our most dysfunctional movement patterns. Breathing also plays a critical role in the quality of how we move. When breathing is normal, posture and stabilization of the spine are easier to maintain. Conversely, when breathing is dysfunctional, it compromises our posture and stability, causing back, neck, and shoulder pain as well as many other health issues.
When posture is jeopardized by faulty breathing patterns, it affects spinal function, which then culminates into improper movement patterns. This combination can result in a perfect storm that creates pain, fatigue, and anxiety.
The muscle we most associate with breathing is the diaphragm. When inhaling, the diaphragm goes down, allowing air to enter the lungs. When exhaling, the diaphragm goes back up, decreasing the size of the lungs and pushes air out.
Other accessory muscles responsible for breathing are in the neck (scalenes and sternocleidomastoid) and the top of the shoulders (upper trapezius). Many times, these muscles become overused not only during exercise but even during simple, relaxed breathing throughout the day. This type of shallow breathing usually leads to chronically raised shoulders and a stiff neck.
One way to change the way we breathe is by practicing the breathing drill we do at ALF. This “resetting” drill is usually done lying on our backs, with bent knees and a neutral spine. Then we place one hand on the sternum (chest) and the other hand on the belly to ensure the belly rises during the inhale, and not the chest. We inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth 5 – 8 times.
Another way to change poor breathing habits is by simply being more aware of how we breathe, and practicing deeper diaphragmatic breathing throughout our day whether at work, rest, or play.
Let’s become more mindful of our breathing and see if this one simple change can help improve the quality of our posture, our movements, and our lives.
Active Life Fitness Personal Trainers & Gym94 North Ave Garwood, NJ 07027(908) 389-8009