Breathing is easy. Not much to it. Well, that’s not quite correct. As with most things, there’s a right and a wrong way.
Let’s find out more about the 5th Principle of the Bagot Stack System – Natural Breathing.
How do we breathe?
Let’s start with a quick bit of anatomy. The diaphragm is a thin sheet of muscle at the base of your chest cavity which separates the chest and the abdomen. When relaxed, it broadly follows the shape of the bottom of your ribs. When contracted it flattens and causes negative pressure in the chest, allowing air to travel in through the nose and mouth into the lungs (inhalation). As it relaxes it pushes the air out of the lungs (exhalation).
The process is helped by your intercostal muscles, which are between your ribs. These muscles help expand and shrink your rib cage to allow more air into your lungs. There are also muscles around your neck and collarbone that assist the intercostals if breathing becomes impaired. These muscles increase the speed and amount of movement your ribs are capable of.
What affects your breathing rate?
For the average adult, a normal breathing rate is between 12 to 18 breaths per minute. However, there are several factors that can impair respiratory function.
- Incorrect thoracic positioning – upper and middle part of the spine
- Nervous Tension
- Underlying medical conditions
If you sit hunched over a laptop for long periods of time, you will not be in a good postural position. Rounded shoulders and a forward head posture cause the muscles around the chest to tighten. That tightening limits the ability of the rib cage to expand and causes people to take more rapid shallow breaths.
How does posture and breathing affect movement?
Did you know that breathing from your chest relies on secondary muscles around your neck and collarbone instead of your diaphragm? However, when this breathing pattern is accompanied by poor posture, many muscles in your upper body aren’t able to function properly. Therefore the longer you sit during the day, the less your body is able to fight the forces of gravity and maintain a strong, stable core.
Lifting your ribs away from your waist helps give a feeling of length that is needed in the thoracic spine, to not only improve posture but to help aid breathing. Having established a good position for the thoracic spine, it is important that the muscles and joints around the surrounding area are strengthened and mobilised. This allows the lungs more space in which to work at optimum capacity. https://www.fl-exercise.com/posture-check-the-bagot-stack-principles/
Some good breathing visuals to practise:
Imagine your lungs are an accordion. As you inhale, imagine the accordion expanding laterally. As you exhale, imagine the accordion getting smaller as the air is blown out. Place your hands on your lower ribs at the front with fingertips touching. As you breathe in laterally, the fingertips will come apart and as you breathe out the fingertips will re-touch.
Advantages of natural breathing
Taking just a few minutes each day to practice some breathing exercises can decrease stress, relax your mind, body and can help you sleep better. There are many reasons why breathing is good for your overall health, here are a few.
- Improves blood flow
- Improves immunity
- Calms down anxiety – relaxes mind and body
- Helps you sleep better
- Increases energy level
- Improves posture
- Improves digestion and stimulates lymphatic system
Reinforcing natural breathing
A lot of people tend to overthink breathing, it’s important to remember that your body is built for it!
Your respiratory systems know exactly when to tell you to change your depth of breathing, depending on what activity you are performing.
A slow, steady breathing pattern enhances core stability, helps improve tolerance to high-intensity exercise, and reduces the risk of muscle fatigue and injury.
Taking balanced, equal breaths whilst exercising should be your goal.