Ahhhh breathing… it’s something that is so subtle to our systems and yet is one of the most important aspects of our physical being that we completely take for granted.
Take a moment now to notice your breath – are you breathing from your chest or above, or are you breathing from your belly?
Most of us breathe from the chest and up. Unfortunately, that’s not how we are designed to breathe.
The main muscle of respiration in the body is actually your diaphragm (as a side note, isn’t it funny that the diaphragm’s shape is very similar to the shape of the lungs). So, during inhalation, the diaphragm contracts (i.e flattens out) and pushes down on the abdomen, and during exhalation, it relaxes and the pressure is taken off the abdomen. This means that it’s your belly that should be the main mover during breathing as opposed to your chest – hence the term “belly breathing”.
Contrary to popular belief, your chest and intercostals (those muscles between the ribs), are not the main muscles to breathe – so if you’re constantly breathing from your chest then changes are you’re straining the secondary breathing muscles and causing a lot of unnecessary tightness (sore necks anyone?).
How to breathe from your diaphragm
Place your hands on your belly. On your inhale, expand your belly out and on the exhale, bring your belly towards your spine. It’s that simple. Once you’re used to breathing like this you can take the hands away – it’s just a cue for you.
There’s some pretty good benefits to breathing like this – your stress and anxiety levels will reduce as you spend more time being in your body and focusing on the belly than focusing on what’s going on in your mind. As less stress = less tightness in your muscles.
Breathing like this when receiving a remedial massage is extremely beneficial too as it helps that sore spot disappear a lot quicker than usual!