THE PROBLEM WITH SHALLOW BREATHING

The most accurate predictor of longevity is unexpectedly lung size and respiratory health. If you breath 20,000 times a day but only from your upper chest. This is shallow breathing and it puts a stress on the whole respiratory system. It can be done as the body compensates but eventually it will wear it down. Using the analogy of a car, if when the car is at traffic lights and you keep revving the engine, giving the car far more fuel than it needs, eventually engine parts will start to run down. The same principle goes for the body. Why would you want to over work the body and end up getting less oxygen delivery to the tissues? Eventually the body will start breaking down. This is dysfunctional breathing. Nasal breathing is beneficial as it makes us take deeper breaths. Developing diaphragmatic motion can be learnt by breathing slowly and deeply through the nose.

The diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle and works 24/7. It is attached via the fascia to the heart above and the muscles of the lower back, the psoas, iliacus and quadratum lomborum below. Directly underneath the diaphragm sit all the visceral organs the stomach, spleen, liver, small and large intestines. With each breath these organs are gently massaged by the diaphragm’s rhythmic pulse. As you pick up a weight the diaphragm moves down and the abdomen inflates like a balloon. It creates  intra- abdominal air pressure and this in turn stabilises the spine. This intra- abdominal pressure prevents the spine from buckling. Some people with lower back pain have poor breathing.

 If the diaphragm does not descend on the in breath, we compensate by using the muscles of the upper chest and neck. In restful breathing we should not be recruiting the muscles of the upper chest and neck. They kick into action with exertion (heavy lifting or walking briskly uphill) or at times of emotional stress, but under normal breathing circumstances it’s the diaphragm and the associated intercostal muscles which do the work.

Ribs can be made more elastic, especially the lower ribs and keeping  this flexibility in your ribs allows the lungs and diaphragm below to become more elastic. Yoga is a beneficial way of stretching of the rib cage and keeping it elastic. Amatsu can help stretch the ribs and retraining the breath can make the diaphragm work better. Correct diaphragmatic breathing can also impact the lower back and the pelvic floor. If you can slow down the breath, taking 6 breaths per minute( average is 12 to 15) you can increase your efficiency of uptake through the lung wall and into the blood stream by 85%. This in turn means better oxygen uptake in the tissues and well oxygenated tissues are healthy tissues.

Slow, low diaphragmatic breathing can also affect our emotions. The Phrenic nerve controls movement of diaphragm. Everyone thinks that the brain controls the body but it works the other way as well. 80% of the messages along the phrenic nerve are from the body to the brain, so switching how you are breathing will effect the emotional centres of the brain and how we make decisions.

The diaphragm also impacts on our lymph system. The diaphragm works like a pump moving up and down, on the inhale as it moves down blood is drawn into the lung area in order for gas exchange to occur and on the exhale, it helps pump that blood all around the body, like a secondary pump to the heart. But if you are upper chest breathing and not actively engaging the diaphragm, the lymphatic fluid that sits around it gets stagnant, starts to coagulate and becomes hard. Engaging/ working the diaphragm more than 40% is what pumps the lymph fluid out. Biomechanically it’s important to take these slow, light, deep breaths in order to keep the lymph flowing.  Lymph stagnation can lead to inflammation in the body. Correct diaphragmatic breathing will massage the organs of the abdomen and with them the surrounding lymph. The lymph and the organs in the abdomen need to move for health.

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