The Power of Breath
Why my latest favorite sport is ski jumping…. and it’s not Eddie the Eagle.
If you missed our last newsletter, click here before you read this. It’ll make lots more sense.
At ALTA, we look at the whole body to help solve your problems. Mobilizing a tight right shoulder can improve left hip mobility – we know that. An SFMA screen helps us get to the root of your problem. It’s great to solve pain problems by connecting the dots.
But what I just learned about breathing opens up a whole new world. Breathing has a huge influence on the health of your pelvic floor. It might seem like a stretch, but correcting breathing patterns can make a world of difference “down there” so just take a deep breath and keep reading.
If we breathe with good lower rib
cage excursion, the diaphragm
descends, massaging the
abdominal contents, and
ultimately creating a downward
pressure on the bottom of our
box, AKA the pelvic floor. The
diaphragm acts like a piston,
causing the pelvic floor to drop.
While inhaling creates a nice
stretch of the pelvic floor
muscles as they descend,
exhaling facilitates lift and closure of the same system. Just as “movement is medicine” for other muscles in your body, movement of the pelvic floor enhances circulation, lymphatic flow and ultimately
allows the pelvic floor to be responsive to the demands we place on it – like jogging, cross fit, or hauling groceries.
However, many of us have faulty breathing patterns. There are 2 basic categories of sub-optimal breathers: upper chest or belly breathers and each is related to posture. The third category is the non-breather. These folks hold their breath during exertion without even knowing it.
And each creates its own problem.
Here’s the usual story of a chest breather: Your mother told you to stand up straight and by golly, you do. Shoulders back and chest out may seem like good posture, but notice how you breathe. Can you get the breath down to those bottom ribs? No, your chest is moving, causing strain of the shoulder girdle and neck as you fill the upper half of your lungs, but nothing moves down below, in the ribs or pelvic floor. And with shoulders way back, you counterbalance by tucking your bum, which makes it even harder to activate the pelvic floor when you need it.
Here’s the usual story of a belly breather:
Slouching is your ” go to” posture. Or
you’ve heard about belly breathing in
yoga or meditation, and the more you can
get your belly to move the better. If all
the breath goes into the abdomen and
your belly expands a lot, you miss the chance to get the diaphragm to drop, as it should. Those lower ribs move very little, so your diaphragm has no chance to descend.
Click on video for how the diaphragm and the pelvic floor work like a piston.
Developing good costal breathing has enormous benefits, and you can learn how to do it with just a bit of training. Enter ski jumping!
Click on video for the
Ski Jump Exercise
Sure, there may be other things we need to do to start creating a healthy box, (see the last newsletter) but making your breathing easier and more efficient will do wonders for everything from neck tightness, to insomnia to constipation. As your pelvic floor starts to
move and respond to the needs of your body, other parts can relax. Hip and lower back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain all get at least a bit better.
Here’s the other thing. If we never get the pelvic floor to move up and down with breath, the body maps in our brain go offline and we can’t tell what’s happening or how to move the pelvic floor. That’s when getting your breathing game on activates the system so vital to health.