1, 2, 3 and breathe…

We are all very aware of the importance of breathing. We need to adequately breathe in order for our bodies to function througout the day, exchange gases and, so we are able to blow someone a kiss (in the spirit of Valentine’s day – a little late, I know)

 

            It never ceases to amaze me when treating a patient, (for example shoulder pain) on how muscle weakness, tightness and compensatory muscle tone can be a result of inadequate breathing patterns and posture.

 

Did you know…..

 

While texting, people hold their breath. Think of the amount of texts you send and receive every day… Holy moly it’s a lot, right?

This results in your poor neck muscles, such as your sternocleidomastoid and scalenes increasing in muscle tension to compensate.  So when you think about it, texting, tindering and trawling through your news feed is a huge contributor to poor breathing and those tight shoulders or yours.

Don't forget to breathe

Don’t forget to breathe

Having your hands on the keyboard and typing results in a dramatic decrease in abdominal expansion when breathing and an increase in scalene and trapezius activity. This is compared to the same sitting posture but with your hands on your lap.

 – Lin Apply Psychophysiology, 2009

 

Holding your breath subconsciously and breathing with your neck and shoulders is very common in our tech-savvy society. I certainly catch myself doing this a lot throughout the day when I am at the desk.

In order to reduce the hyperactivity and hypertonicity of our neck and shoulder muscles we need to be aware when we are doing this.

Breathing exercises aren’t just for the yoga types – they should be a common element of your wellbeing, just like stretching.

 

But, why?

Deep breathing benefits:

–       decrease in your sympathetic state

–       decrease in muscle tone

–       decrease in anxiety

 

Breathing exercises I like to do and prescribe to my patients…

–       Chest and stomach:

Lying on your back with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Taking in a deep breath and feeling for symmetry in the rise of both hands. (your chest and stomach hands should rise at the same time). Try 10 deep breaths

–       Focus on Exhalation:

Slow and controlled deep breaths with a pause at exhalation. This helps to train the endurance of your breathing and increase your awareness of any states of short shallow breaths throughout your busy day.

–      Thoracic stretches:

1)   Stretching your mid-back: On the floor, lying on your back with a rolled up towel at your shoulder-blade level, taking deep breaths.

2)   Bow and arrow stretches: lying on your side, knees bent and arms out straight infront. Pull top arm over and back (like you’re pulling an arrow) and try and get that top shoulder blade to get in contact with the floor. Keeping knees in the same position, this torso twist helps aid your thoracic rotation. Deep breathing throughout the movement is extremely beneficial. Slow and controlled and 1×10 each side.

 

So next time you’re having a stretch at home or at the gym, counting down the seconds on the microwave or waiting for the ad-breaks to be over; utilise this time to try and counteract that build up of tension your neck and shoulders have endured but doing some of these simple deep breathing exercises.

Hey, you can even throw in a sly ‘Om’ in there at the end for some extra zen.

We are never too busy to look after ourselves, so give it a try and it will amaze you how much you hold your breath and breathe incorrectly throughout the day.

 

Let me know how you go.

 

Namaste,

TOA

 

 

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Written by Jennifer Dodge

Jennifer is a Physiotherapist based in Australia and the United Arab Emirates

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