My journey of understanding the importance of the breath began in the science classroom studying the physiology of breathing. To me this was only beneficial to be used on patients that had difficulty breathing. Now I know that optimizing the breath using diaphragmatic breathing and belly breathing can maximise performance and support wellbeing.
I came to find yoga in 1995 and I was quick to understand I along with many others were “chest breathers,” meaning we’re accustomed to an unhealthy pattern of initiating the breath from the chest, which can be agitating. When you fall into a pattern of isolated upper-chest breathing, you grossly overuse muscles in the neck and upper body (known as the accessory muscles of inspiration) and underuse the diaphragm. During heavy exercise and in emergency situations, you need these accessory muscles: They kick in to supplement the diaphragm’s action by moving the rib cage up and down more vigorously, helping to bring more air to the lungs. But unlike the diaphragm, which is designed to work indefinitely, the accessory muscles tire more easily, and overusing them will eventually leave you feeling fatigued and anxious. All of this makes upper-chest breathing exhausting, rather than restorative, in everyday situations. It’s no wonder, then, that most yogis avoid it.
DIAPHRAGMATIC & BELLY BREATHING
After exhausting my physical body to prepare to back bend and headstand which didn’t come naturally to me I was told I had to improve my breathing in order to perform. This is where I found that I could use different breathing techniques to improve performance and well-being.
Diaphragmatic breathing, strongly activates the upper torso yet creates a full, deep pattern of breath because it uses the diaphragm to lift and spread the ribs on inhalation and ease them back down on exhalation, while keeping the belly relatively still. Belly breathing, which massages the abdominal organs more than rib cage breathing, often feels more natural and soothing and is easier to learn. It’s an excellent introduction to breath awareness for beginners and a good way to teach people to calm themselves quickly, especially during an anxiety attack, because it strongly discourages use of the accessory muscles of inspiration. Diaphragmatic rib cage breathing is harder to learn, and it can stray into inefficient, anxiety-promoting upper-chest breathing if done incorrectly. But if performed properly, it is calming and much more powerful for strengthening the diaphragm, deepening the inhalation, stretching the lungs, and more effectively aerating all parts of the lungs.
I have now incorporated breath assessment and awareness training into my treatments and also throughout my personal practice. Please book online or contact me for more information email@example.com.