Massage Therapy for Health and Fitness in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

"Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men."
--Goethe

Breathing




We all know that we need to breathe to live, right?  But few of us have really thought about the best method to do so.

breathingWatch a baby, young child or animal breathe - as they inhale, their tummy fills with air.  As they exhale, their tummy flattens as the air is expelled.

This method uses the muscles that were designed to help us breathe - primarily the diaphragm muscle, not the upper chest, neck and shoulder muscles (the "accessory" breathing muscles).  These muscles are usually over-shortened - and hold tension and pain in them - by daily life/posture.  Any body posture with our arms forward-facing - driving, cooking, typing, childcare, hairdressing, etc - will invariably be over-using the muscles that also try to do the job of helping us get more lung capacity, and hence more air, into our lungs. While this type of breathing has its place - such as during strenuous exercise, for example - the muscles that do this job need a break too.

When everything around us seems out of control, we can still come back to our body.  Deep, controlled breathing is also fantastic for managing pain, making loaded muscle movement more efficient (such as when lifting weights), and is powerful during labour (for those mums-to-be!).  It is incredibly calming and can help dissolve those emotions of anger, distress, etc. 

A simple place to start

tummy breathingSit or stand comfortably, with your back as straight as possible.  Put gentle hands on your upper abdomen, your thumbs resting on the bottom of your ribcage, your hands contouring to your shape, with your middle fingers touching.  Allow your shoulders to be relaxed and heavy.

Think for a minute about how a balloon looks when it fills with air.  Think of a balloon being in your lower abdomen. 

With your mouth closed, breathe gently through your nose into your throat.  Now let the breath travel down your neck, through and past your chest, down past your hands and allow it to fill the balloon in your lower tummy.  If it does, your middle fingers will separate.

Do this in front of a mirror (or with someone watching). Your tummy needs to be the only part moving with the inward breath - not your shoulders or upper chest. 

Wait a second, see how this feels... then allow the breath to escape back up the pathway it came in on.  You can contract your abdominal muscles at the end of the outward breath to help completely empty the lungs. 

How different does that feel to how you have been breathing before?

Note: if this is initally too difficult, you can try this exercise lying on your back, with a medium weight book (or similar) on your low abdomen.