Breathing is essential because it supplies our body oxygen necessary to function. However most of us breathe improperly and that leads to a variety of health issues. These range from neck and shoulder pain, swollen legs to high blood pressure and digestive problems. This article will describe the improper breathing, its impact on our body’s functioning, how to transition to proper breathing and also how massage can help.
What is improper breathing?
Also called “chest breathing or shallow breathing”. It is the drawing of minimal breath into the lungs, by raising the shoulders instead of using the diaphragm. Most people have this shallow breathing habit because of their modern lifestyle, sitting down for long hours with a forward head posture, less exercise, stress and anxiety.
Why is shallow breathing so bad?
There are two main reasons. With our shallow breathing style, we use only about 10% of our lung capacity which means that our body is starving for oxygen. It is enough for survival but it leads to fatigue, reduced vitality and a weak immune system.
Shallow breathing also causes many physical problems such as tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. Due to raising the shoulders repeatedly for breathing, the neck and shoulder muscles (in particular scalene muscles) get overworked and become tight. People who try to over correct their posture to try to appear in better alignment often have severe neck problems. Usually their diaphragm and abdominal region are super tight as they never allow their belly to relax.
How to correct shallow breathing?
Firstly, be aware of your breathing. It starts by bringing your attention to the body parts you engage during breathing. Yoga or meditation are a good exercise to access that awareness. It is also essential to practice “Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing”. This is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm muscle which is located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity.
An easy way of doing this is by lying down on the floor and placing one hand above the belly button and the other on the chest. When inhaling, the hand above the belly button should raise significantly while the other hand on the chest raises slightly towards the end of the inhalation.
Our therapist have more detailed instructions about this exercise and are happy to share them with you.
Benefit of improving your breathing
- Massages all abdominal organs and improves the digestive system and sexual functions
- Reduces stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system
- Increases circulation through the body
- Helps prevent respiratory problems as the lungs become stronger
- Reduces blood pressure and helps prevent any heart disease
- Boosts the immune system
- Assists in weight control as it improves circulation level and helps burn excess fat
Massages can help restore the natural deep breathing
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing alone may not bring significant results especially for people who have been shallow breathing for a long time. This is because muscle tension and restriction in the diaphragm, around the rib cage as well as in the neck and the shoulders has developed over time and gets in the way of breathing deeply.
As remedial massage therapists, we can check your breathing quality and find where the restrictions are. Based on that assessment, we will then target and release the muscular and or myofascial tensions in the diaphragm and around the ribs to help you retrieve your natural healthy breathing.
We will also target and massage the neck and shoulder muscles that have been overworked due to improper breathing.
This treatment, combined with a disciplined breathing practice and the correct posture will allow you to prevent having the various health problems mentioned in this article in the future.
Our professional team is looking forward to seeing you.