By Amelia Pattenden – Reduce Yoga
We breathe all the time – in and out, day in, day out – BUT, have you taken a moment to slow down and notice your breathing? As a human being, you require breathing properly as a foundation to set you up for more complex movements and processes. In this article we will be diving into how you breathe, the benefits of breathing and a technique called the 360 breath, to allow for full expansion in the body.
So why should you breathe deeply?
The breath is the foundation of so many other processes in our body. Some really cool benefits of breathing include:
- Natural strengthening of your core and pelvic floor, as the diaphragm and core move and work together with each breath you take. It also helps to massage your internal organs as your diaphragm moves.
- Breathing is a great way to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, stimulate your vagus nerve, and also regulate your stress hormones. This is why taking deep breaths when you are stressed can really help to calm you down!
- Deep breathing increases how much oxygen you take in, which in turn promotes healing and repair of the body.
- Reduces back pain and some techniques can also assist in the prevention of prolapse and diastasis recti.
However deep breathing does not equal breathing with your belly alone!!! Only focusing on a belly breath can actually be causing more damage than good. Don’t get me wrong, the belly breath has its time and place – if you have tight ab muscles this can be extremely beneficial – but all in all full expansion of the ribs and back should be focused on just as much as on the belly.
To understand why it’s so important to take a full, deep breath, let’s understand what happens when we take a belly breath:
As your diaphragm contracts, it inflates your lungs by pulling down and filling your lungs with air. This causes pressure to go down into your abdominal cavity. If all pressure goes down into the belly, there is a lot of distension on the front fascia (the stretching of the fascia as the belly expands, just like a balloon expanding). This can cause too much pressure on the pelvic floor and also contribute to your abdominal muscles losing strength as there is little abdominal engagement.
As you can see, too much of this can really affect your core and pelvic floor, in turn creating quite a bit of imbalance in the body. The way that you breathe affects your core control, making other muscles pick up the slack, so the expansion of the back is, therefore, crucial.
So what should you be focusing on instead?
Well to put it simply, you can focus on directing pressure all the way around instead of only down, allowing your ribs and back to expand, along with your belly. This is so important as the expansion of the ribs helps with back tightness and pain, as the spine now has space to move. How amazing is that?
Let’s take a look together at a really simple breathing technique you can use to create full expansion and a great exhale. This technique is called the 360 breath and it helps with core control, strength, as well as back pain and tightness. The 360 breath also allows expansion of the back, ribs and belly, so it is an incredible technique to place into your toolbox.
I will hold your hand through the whole exercise, so relax and drop those shoulders for me before we get started.
- Find a comfortable seated position. Lengthen through your spine as you breathe in and gently sigh out, ridding your body of unwanted energy.
- Place your hands at the bottom of your rib cage and take a deep breath in. As you breathe in, direct the air down rather than up into your neck and shoulders. There should be some belly movement but not alot!
- At the same time push the air under and into the ribs and back. You will feel the ribcage expand under your fingers, pushing out.
- Exhale fully through parted lips, noticing your ribs draw back in.
- Once you feel comfortable, close your eyes and repeat this breath 10 times, intentionally directing and visualising the flow of air.
There are two things to observe during this movement. Firstly, are your shoulders moving? This may indicate a shallow breath, where pressure is moving up rather than down. Visualize moving the air down and under, keeping your hands on your ribs to aid you in feeling this expansion.
Secondly, if you are struggling to take long breaths, then meet yourself exactly where you are. You will build up slowly to a longer breath. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and to be intentional in your actions. Give yourself the time to create space in your being and then the breath will flow with ease.
You have done it! I am so proud of you! Taking your first step – or breath I should say! – to self-awareness is powerful. The more time you dedicate towards the smallest of moments, to slow down and breathe with intention, is more time dedicated to healing and guiding yourself to a fuller life.
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