GETTING YOUR FAIR SHARE OF AIR!
Breathing is the most essential and the most constant thing that human beings do. It is also the first independent thing we do – and the last!
Most of us assume that our breathing is okay – after all, we are still alive, aren’t we?
Others suffer from breathing distress most of the time – asthma, sleep apnea, emphysema, recurring bronchitis, chronic shortness of breath. I have found that people with these conditions gain great relief from them when the breathing ‘mechanism’ is functioning better and their breathing pattern improved. Slowing down the breathing, especially the out-breath, has a profound effect on these conditions by enabling the carbon dioxide to carry out its job of dilating (widening) the airways.
BENEFITS OF GOOD BREATHING
What would the result be if you could increase the amount of air you inhaled with each breath?
First of all, you would have more energy – yes, that’s right, oxygen is so essential to the human body that every cell depends on it and a lot of our ‘low energy’ problems are due to low intake of air.
Secondly, your circulation would improve. When there is not enough energy to go around, the body withdraws it from the arms and legs and saves it for the vital organs. That makes sense, doesn’t it? So more air improves heart function and circulation.
Thirdly, your thinking would be clearer! The brain (without which none of the rest of us is of any use to us!) also depends on a good supply of oxygen so that it can ‘run’ the body as well as learn and remember new information, make decisions and take actions.
Fourthly, your immunity and general health will improve as oxygen is one of the great enemies of viruses and other intruders in the body. By having a strong immune system, these intruders are quickly and efficiently dealt with.
Fifthly, you will have an invaluable tool for managing your stress by being able to control your breathing and use it to slow down your heart rate, calm your body and think more rationally about the cause of the stress.
So how can you improve your ability to get your fair share of this essential ‘stuff’? After all, it’s about the only thing left that’s completely free! Well, first we need to look at how breathing works.
HOW BREATHING WORKS
The lungs take in air purely on the basis of the difference in pressure inside the rib-cage and the pressure outside the body. In other words, the more space we can make inside our rib-cage, the more air flows in. Then as we ‘let go’ the ‘used’ air flows out as the balance of pressure between the inside and the outside changes.
The main muscle involved in making space inside the rib-cage is the diaphragm. This muscle works all the time – whether we are asleep or awake, conscious or unconscious. It’s run by the part of the brain that keeps us ‘ticking over’ without us having to think about it.
But the diaphragm is not meant to do all the work. The intercostal muscles (the ones between each pair of ribs) should contract and relax in a rhythmic manner to increase the space available for the lungs to inhale and exhale. You could consider the diaphragm as the ‘floor’ of the respiratory system and the intercostal muscles as the ‘walls’.
You can test this on yourself by holding the palms of your hands firmly on the sides of your rib-cage and taking a deep breath. If your hands move outwards, you’ve probably got good ‘rib-cage expansion’ and can take in a good supply of air when you need to. If not, you probably find ‘deep’ breathing quite tiring and avoid doing it.
If your diaphragm is tired and your rib-cage is ‘locked up’, you might have started to use your neck muscles to breathe! The long-term outcome of this can be asthma, emphysema, a stiff neck and headaches. Some of our neck muscles are attached to the upper ribs so that when we need to lift something really heavy (watch weight-lifters!), we can make that extra bit of space inside the rib-cage by lifting it from the top. But if we use these muscles all the time, they get over-worked too as they are not designed to be used all the time for breathing.
IMPROVING YOUR BREATHING
There are numerous ways of improving your breathing and the first step is to be more aware of its importance. The next step is to get your breathing muscles working better so that your body can naturally take in the exact amount of oxygen it needs in every circumstance.
Breathing exercises, especially those taught in yoga and martial arts will help to improve your breathing over time, but if you would like to speed up the process, I can help you to balance your breathing muscles and release the tensions that are typically held in this region of the body.
The way that I do this is, first, to help you to release your diaphragm and make it work correctly for you. When the diaphragm is working properly, the abdomen gently moves out with each in-breath. The next step is to find the areas of the tension in the rib-cage and release those. This is also a gentle process where we work together but you are completely in charge.
WHY THE BREATHING MUSCLES GET WEAK OR TENSE
Some breathing problems go right back to birth. A new baby has to make the change from having their oxygen supplied by their mother through the umbilical cord to taking it in through the respiratory system.
Often, in our society, the umbilical cord is cut before the baby has made that transition naturally. (In earlier times, we were held by the ankles and smacked on the bottom to make us take our first breath – what a welcome to the world!) This can set up a kind of ‘gasp’ effect, which we continue to do whenever we get a shock or a fright. This, alone, can start us using our diaphragm muscle poorly, as it’s natural purpose – to contract down towards the abdomen – is weakened.
Another cause of weak or tense breathing muscles is emotional stress. The hundreds of muscles that lace the rib-cage are often affected by feelings that we have not expressed. Muscle tension is one of the ways that we store feelings in our body.
Sometimes there are chemical reactions that affect breathing. The body is a chemical/electrical organism and all parts of it can be affected by things that affect our body chemistry and/or our energy. These chemical effects can sometimes be ‘balanced’ so that the body no longer reacts to them, or a more direct approach, such as homeopathy, may be necessary.
If you would like to improve your breathing, your health and your life, contact me by phone or email so that we can arrange a time for you to ‘get more of your share of air’ and benefit from a more vital, energetic and healthy life.