When was the last time you thought to breathe? Breathing is an automatic body action that has some conscious control. Everyone knows how to breathe, right? Unfortunately not. Go ahead, try it. Sit up straight with your feet on the ground. Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Now breathe. Chances are you are feeling a slight expansion and retraction in your chest. If this is indeed what you are feeling, you aren’t breathing correctly. Shallow breathing only utilizes the upper rib cage. Proper breathing should come from the belly. By feeling the rise and fall in the abdomen with each breath, it is likely that you are using your diaphragm and filling your entire lungs. When you properly use your diaphragm, it contracts downward towards your abdomen during inhalation. By doing this, your chest expands downward and the lungs fill deeply with oxygen.
During exhalation, the diaphragm reverses the motion, compressing the chest field and fully emptying the lungs of carbon dioxide. Not only are you getting proper air exchange but you are also keeping your organs healthier. All cells in your body need oxygen to live. Furthermore, your diaphragm is a muscle. Muscles need to contract and relax to function. Just like the old adage, you don’t use it, you lose it. Shallow breathing allows the diaphragm to become tight and inflexible. Finally, movement is life. During every moment of your day, with each breath you take, not only is your external body moving, so is your internal body. Organs move in relation to each other with each step, bend, twist and BREATH you take. If you are not properly breathing, the organs in your chest and abdomen become stagnant and tight.
All of these factors can lead to many different dysfunctions. Common troubles due to shallow breathing include: asthma, acid reflux, irritable bowel dysfunction, general swelling, spinal and rib pain, indigestion and bloat. If you suffer from any of these or similar conditions, try daily belly breathing. Make it a habit every morning and night. If you feel light-headed, slow down your breath. If you would like additional help, CranioSacral and Visceral Manipulation can help to soften the diaphragm and abdomen. I would love to help. Until we meet again, BREATHE!
Courtesy of Acupuncture Healthcare Associates of Michigan.