An often overlooked area that can significantly affect how our body functions from a physiology and a movement base is breathing. Respiration describes the physiology behind the gas exchange and it is commonly thought that respiration in itself is all that is needed to stay healthy and upright.
However while respiration is essential for the removal of waste products and the supply of oxygen to our tissues, breathing is much more important when it comes to improving health. Breathing describes the mechanical process of respiration – how the lungs, diaphragm and ribs move to facilitate this exchange of gases.
Many people exhibit stress breathing patterns which can result in increased upper shoulder and neck tension as well as a myriad of body changes associated with the stress response. Take a deep breath in and think about what happens. Does your chest rise initially? Do your shoulders raise up? Does your abdomen push in or out?
When using correct breathing mechanics, taking a breath in should cause the abdomen and lower ribs to push out first allowing the lungs to expand as they fill with air. The upper shoulders and neck region should remain relaxed. The main muscle that allows this to occur is the diaphragm.
In a stress breathing response the chest moves first and the shoulders rise up as many muscles help to draw as much air into the lungs as possible. This response is designed to assist the increased demands associated with physical effort such as exercise. It is a normal and necessary response in these situations, however when applied to everyday breathing it is inefficient and can cause overload.
How often do you stop to think about your breathing patterns?