Proper breathing is not as easy as it sounds. Thankfully, we're all hardwired to do it without thinking! As a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Pilates/Yoga instructor, I well understand how powerful breathing is as a tool to optimal health!
Joseph Pilates was all about breathing! He wrote:
"One often wonders how so many millions continue to live as long as they do under this tremendous handicap to longevity.
Lazy breathing converts the lungs, figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying, and dead germs.."- P. 23, Joe Pilates, Return To Life
Because breathing is an autonomic response, it's often an underlooked area of training. It's well documented that proper breathing mechanics is a primary catalyst for optimal health and energy in the human body.
Unfortunately, in my professional experience, the majority of my clients (even those who are physically fit and just looking to improve performance) do not breathe well. And worse, this inefficiency is compounded further if you are in chronic pain, have poor posture or compromised health.
You might think "what's difference as long as I'm breathing?" Sure you're breathing, but I guarantee you this. You're not getting ENOUGH life sustaining oxygen to your body, and on top of that, you will be breathing from your shoulders, neck, head and upper back area.
The breathing muscles are just like any other muscle within the human body. They benefit grealy from proper postural alignment and training and suffer when its design and function is compromised when the major load joints shift out of place.
Inefficient Chest Breathing
The result is inefficient chest breathing. When you breath from the incorrect areas, it makes susceptible to unexplainable symptoms that do not respond to medication.
5 Symptoms of Inefficient Chest Breathing
- Feel lousy, general malaise
- Low energy
- Prone to headaches
- Shoulder and neck pain
- Muscle fatigue (fibromyalgia)
One of the 8 Laws of Physical Health that we practice here at Pain Free Posture MN is The Law of Breathing:
“The body may not function without oxygen.
So essential is this law that the body has redundant systems to ensure compliance.”
Redundancy occurs when muscles like the trapezius, levator scapule and/or rhomboids are activated to aid in oxygen delivery to sustain life. These are shoulder and torso stabilizing muscles, NOT breathing muscles.
Sadly I see this every day in clients who come to the studio. What's the lesson?
LACK OF MOTION combined with a COMPROMISED POSTURAL POSITION directly affects the ability to breath properly.
Check YOUR Posture
Intrigued? Want to find out if you are breathing well or if your posture is compromised? Try this simple exercise and check your posture!
Take a look at yourself in the mirror (bare-chested or in a tank top) and no shoes on. Try to take a larger than normal breath and pay attention to your chest and shoulders. Ask yourself:
- Are your shoulders even or is one higher than the other?
- Is one shoulder closer to the mirror than the other?
- Are your shoulders/shoulder rounded forward (can you can see more than your knuckles, thumb and forefinger in the mirror)?
- Looking from the side view, is your head forward of your shoulders?
- When you breathe in do you see your shoulders lifting up towards your ears?
Ideally, your chest and shoulder level should remain unchanged when breathing. The movement should be an expansion of the chest (east-west) as your lungs fill versus an elevation of the shoulders.
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, you are breathing inefficiently from your chest. Your lung capacity and oxygen delivery is compromised due to poor posture!
Overtime this inefficient chest breathing motor pattern will ultimately lead to tension throughout your body.
"chest breathing will only strengthen the position you are already in. And we all know how position (aka posture) correlates with pain. How does this happen? Well, if the average human breathes approximately 20,000 times per day and that average human is you with either an elevated shoulder, one shoulder closer to the mirror (thoracic rotation), rounded shoulders, a head forward of your shoulders, or all of the above and your breathing with the muscle in your chest, shoulders, and neck...Well then, you're doing approximately 20,000 shoulder shrugs per day to help strengthen those dysfunctions and/or compensations." ~ Brian Bradley, Egoscue®, Inc
What's the Solution?
In order for the diaphragm to work effectively and to increase your lung capacity, you must have good posture. That is the first step. Correct your posture!
That's where a Corrective Exercise Program like Posture Alignment Therapy, Pilates, and yoga just to name a few come into play. I suggest you seek out and hire a specialist in the field of your choice to teach you the basics first, as it is more challenging that it looks, and your overall posture must be addressed to maximize the benefits. Give it a go, and let us know how things progress for you! Please reach out if you have any questions.
Remember, we're in this together, and I am here to help!