Did you know that most people breathe inefficiently?

Almost everyone is shocked when we identify compensatory breathing strategies. Those compensations come from a variety of places but often poor posture (hint hint, those of you who spend a lot of time on your computer) or injury (like that mama who just had a c-section or the weekend warrior who took a spill during a softball tournament).

The most common changes we see are hyperactive muscles (knots/spams) in the neck and stiffness in the ribs and upper back.

Why’s this matter?

The respiratory diaphragm is a muscle that’s job is to push the ribs away from the lungs in order for gas exchange to occur and oxygenate blood to be pumped throughout the body. The diaphragmatic excursion that occurs with normal, healthy breathing allows for decreased sympathetic (ie; fight or flight ) tone and therefore decreased neuromuscular tone (ie; spasm/tightness). Ultimately, poor breathing can lead the brain to feel insecure and unsafe, creating more “tightness” as a protective mechanism.

We spend a lot of effort increasing thoracic and sacral mobility since we get extensions in both regions with every inhale. We then try to down-train the accessory breathing muscles in the neck and activate the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles used in expiration.

Try lying on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your side around the bottom of the rib cage. Very slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. On the inhale, work to ensure that the hand on your chest does not rise and that the hand on your side moves. You want to feel the breath move into your sides and back as well as a slight rise in the belly.