Breathing is one of the most fundamental decisions we make in our lives; well, in order to live and make other decisions. You wouldn’t think that it would be a hard thing to learn, or maintain. So why are many of us doing it wrong?
Have you ever noticed the difference between how a baby breathes and how you breathe? Breathing is an innate function (meaning our bodies know how to do it from birth). When babies inhale, their bellies push out. When they exhale, their bellies are sucked in. The average adult uses their chest to breathe, causing all sorts of mechanical dysfunction.
Why is improper breathing detrimental to our health? You read it right. Our health is suffering. By not breathing correctly, we are unable to fully bathe our lungs with fresh air, leaving the air in the bottom of our lungs to become stagnant. We become winded easily, tired/fatigued, and we can become more prone to respiratory infections. Our neck and shoulders become tight and painful, and our core muscles become weaker, leaving our back muscles to become tight and painful. Anatomy Lesson:
At the center of the breathing process, is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is connected to the xiphoid process and the cartilage of ribs 7-12, in the front. At the sides it is connected to the ribs, and at the back it is connected to the abdominal wall and lumbar vertebrae. The diaphragm is also involved in several non-respiratory functions (not discussed at this time).
The central portion of the diaphragm is innervated by the phrenic nerve which is formed from the cervical nerves C3, C4 and C5. While the peripheral portions of the diaphragm communicates through the intercostal (T5-T11) and subcostal nerves (T12).
Its location and innervation is why many people notice that they can breathe deeper, and better, following a chiropractic adjustment.
The abdominal muscles also play an important role in breathing. They are the antagonist muscles, helping to expel the air from the lungs.
So how can we fix this breathing problem?
Simple. Just mimic an infant and practice belly breathing! When you inhale, push your belly out, and when you exhale, use your abs to push the air out of your lungs. This will not only help you feel better and less tired in the future, it will also strengthen your abs, relieve the muscle tension in your neck and shoulders, as well as help prevent that neck/shoulder/back pain!