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Why we should all breathe better!

Breathing is something that we take for granted, as an involuntary action we have no control over or need to take notice of. But what if I told you that neck pain, back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, poor bowel function, headaches, stress and anxiety can all be caused or exacerbated by poor breathing?

To understand why breathing mechanics are so important, firstly we need to know what happens during breathing.

So what happens inside our body when we breathe?

When we want to breathe in our diaphragm drops down and our rib cage moves out to the side to suck the air into the lungs. When we want to breathe out our diaphragm raises and our ribs come together to push the air out. This process can be seen by the movement of the ribs and the movement of our tummies. This is the ideal process we want to see during breathing.

What does poor breathing mechanics look like?

For many people for a variety of reasons, instead of allowing the diaphragm and the ribs to work completely, they recruit the muscles that attach to the neck to physically lift the rib cage up. These muscles aren't designed for this job long term as they are too small. So they end up getting very tight and uncomfortable. For some people you can see these muscles more exaggerated with every breath in that they take.

How do I know if I'm breathing right?

There are many different ways to assess breathing, however these are some of the easiest ones you can try at home:

- Stand in front of a mirror and watch to see if your ribs and tummy move, and if your shoulders move, or your neck muscles are very obvious during breathing

- Lie down with your hands on your shoulder and stomach and compare the movement of the two. The shoulder should feel relaxed

- Tie a pair of leggings around your ribs and feel if they push into the leggings on the breath in or not

How to change my breathing?

- Yoga/meditation classes

If you have a good tutor they will teach you excellent ways to start breathing from your tummy and relax those shoulders. It also helps to relax the muscles and reduce tension and stress.

- Calm/headspace apps. These apps teach you ways to de-stress and reduce anxiety which in turn will affect the way that we breathe

- Visit a physiotherapist to go through specific exercises for you to help with both your breathing and your aches and pains caused by doing this.

So if we all take a few minutes a day to be aware of the way that we breathe, and slowly change our habits, it could make a huge difference to our physical and mental health!


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