This may seem like an unusual topic, because most people think that they have breathing mastered, otherwise they wouldn’t be alive anymore. It is pretty easy to assume this, but interestingly enough there are many who are breathing all wrong.
Let me ask you a question. Is it possible that the way you breathe may add to the physiological stress that you face, or even contribute to the pains that you deal with on a regular basis? I’m willing to submit to you that it does.
Aprical or Abdominal Breathing?
I feel that I need to introduce to everyone that there are two different ways to breathe. I don’t mean breathing in and then breathing out, I mean apical breathing and abdominal breathing. Most people are apical breathers, which means that they spend most of the time breathing with their chest muscles. When we breathe with our chest, we are using more muscles to perform the simple task of putting air into our lungs and then pushing it out. It wears us out and increases the amount of abuse on our mitochondria which are the power houses within every cell of our body. We have patients in our office, that are classic apical breathers, and consequently, they are the ones that suffer the most from pain, and slow recovery.
Abdominal breathing does more than just eases the load on our mitochondria; it incorporates the use of one of the most overlooked core muscles that our body has. Whether you are lifting something, running, standing, sitting, or really any activity, you are using your core. If it is weak, then you start to recruit other muscles to help stabilize your body so you don’t break in half, which shreds the spine, and supporting muscles. We read all the time about how to strengthen your core; Planks in all their variety, sit-ups, crunches, Pilates, and many more. These all work great to strengthen the most common muscles, but sadly, we miss one of the most critical…The diaphragm.
So what kind of breather are you? Do you over exert your system by apical breathing, which adds to your stress, physiologically as well as emotionally? Or do you breathe the way that stabilizes your core, reduces your stress, and makes life much more beneficial? Here is a simple test. The next time that you breathe, which is right now, look down. Is your chest rising, or is your belly pushing out? This is easier performed standing, but can be done sitting as well. If you are standing, do you lose sight of your toes when you inhale? If the answer is yes, you are belly breathing. Good Job! Keep it up. If not, well, let’s talk about how to fix that.
This is a little harder than you think, because our body likes to do all these little tasks like breathing without the need to think about it. Thank Goodness for that. Ok, lie down and put your hand on your belly. Now concentrate on pushing your hand to the ceiling every time that you inhale. Do this a few times throughout the day, and pretty soon, you will find that you will begin abdominal breathing. As you master this, you will also start to notice, that pain eases faster, emotional stress isn’t as intense, and you will have less problems, catching your breath.