Do you practice breath work? Would you like to make it even more effective and rewarding? Read on to learn how…
Breath work practices have become increasingly popular in the last few years. This is a very positive development. Breathing practices are a great way to self regulate and calm our nervous system. They give us back some modicum of control over ourselves and our emotions.
With that in mind, I want to share a brief conversation with you, that I had with a client recently. They kindly gave me permission to share this.
Client: “Oh, I did my breath work that I haven’t done in months because I’ve been meditating, and I wanted to switch it up, and I felt so much more air going”
Me: “Oh really, so since you’ve been doing your Somatics you felt you have more air?
Client: “ Yeah! I haven’t done breath work like in a month or something, and I thought like, oh my God! This is going to be like super tough because it’s 4 rounds with breath retention. And I had the longest breath retention time that I ever had. And I haven’t even been doing my breath work practice. It was amazing!!
“Something here in my ribs or something, must have changed because I had so much more space to breathe in air”
Me: “I’ve had this conversation before. People do breath work but if your trunk is really tight, you’re not going go to get that much out of it. If you’ve got some relaxation in the muscles of your trunk and ribs, because they all attach to your ribs right? If they’re relaxed, your breathing practice just sort of opens up a lot.”
Client: “And it (the breath) was going up, like I was super extending it, and I thought, ‘How did I do it before?’. I remember I felt like the air was going diagonal because this rib was probably a bit locked up, and I thought wow! That’s amazing! Because I’m so out of shape with it because I have’t done it in so long, but I held my breath longer than I ever did (before)”
Me: “So you actually had your best breathing practice?
Client: “ Yeah, yeah!! It’s insane!”
Me: “That’s a good endorsement, I love it!”
What’s interesting is that this client never mentioned their breathing to me. They initially wanted help with a completely different complaint (which also improved greatly).
But as you can see above, they experienced a vast difference in their breathing practice as a result of learning some basic Somatic Movements. The Somatic movements reduced their subconscious muscular tension. And the reduction in tension allowed them to breathe easier.
So how is this possible? Well it becomes clear when you look at the the anatomy of the trunk and ribs.
There are a very large number of muscles attached to the ribs. You have the extensors and the lats in the back. The pectorals and abdominals in the front. And there’s also the internal and external obliques making up the sides/waist. Essentially all of the muscles that are involved in moving your trunk, are attached to your ribs.
These muscles aren’t thought of as breathing muscles and strictly speaking they aren’t. BUT, because they attach to the ribs they can have a strong influence on your ability to breathe freely. For example if your abdominals are tight you won’t be able to belly breathe effectively. Or if your thoracic extensors (mid back muscles) are chronically contracted it will be difficult to expand the back of the ribs. A tight oblique will limit air intake into one side of the ribs and so on. All these large muscles can, and do, restrict breathing when they are excessively tight.
You start to get the picture. Habitual tightness in ANY of the muscles attaching to the ribs will get in the way of your breathing. And that leads to a significant reduction in the efficacy of your breath work.
And that’s before we even get to the muscles directly involved with breathing. The intercostals between the ribs, the diaphragm and the smaller accessory muscles.
The take away point is, reduce your muscle tension first. Then your ribs and diaphragm will be able to move more freely, and you can get much more out of your breathing practice.
If you’d like to experience this for yourself, try a little test. Practice a couple of somatic movements before you do your breath work. And see if your breathing improves as a result. You can expect deeper inhalations. Smoother exhalations. More freedom of the ribs and diaphragm. And a more enjoyable and effective breathing experience overall.
To help you with that, follow along to my Daily Routine video below. This routine will help you to reduce muscular tension in the trunk generally. And in doing so, will make breathing easier. As well as reducing stiffness, decreasing pain and increasing comfort.
Give this strategy a try and let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear your experiences with it.
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Until next time!