Image credit((Source: “Woman expands her lungs and breathes in fresh air,” Creative Commons License via Pixabay »))
Hands On Healing provides therapeutic treatments that improve your ability to breathe properly, leading to better blood flow, higher energy levels, and an overall healthier life. We’re located on Vaughn Road in Montgomery, Alabama.
There’s nothing quite like taking a breath of fresh air.
Breathing is truly one of the very first “movements” you create as you enter this world and it stays with you for life!
But for most people, breathing is such an automatic function that we take it for granted.
In previous blog posts, we explored the inner systems that comprise the human frame.
Our discussions ranged from the powerful psoas, to the interlinked deep front line, even down to the ground substance known as fascia that literally defines our body’s ability to create a working structure.
But rarely do we ask of ourselves, “Do my ribs really expand when I breathe?”
This leads to a common dysfunction that can often leave a client “breathless” when untreated.
It’s your diaphragm, and you may not realize just how much it’s screaming to be set free.
All in all, the diaphragm is a rather well-known part of the body, it’s right at the bottom of the ribcage, right?
What about the pelvic diaphragm?
Were you aware that your pelvis has a diaphragm or if one of your diaphragms is dysfunctional, that the other will be automatically be affected?
For now our focus we will simply be looking at the connection our lower body shares with our breathing.
In Figure 1 (click to enlarge) we can see the psoas muscle in turquoise, the diaphragm in blue, and even the deep front line marked by the green path on top of the muscles.
You can clearly see the convergence point that these structures share with each other, giving insight as to why even the most basic of hip dysfunctions, or vice versa the most basic of breathing dysfunctions, will ultimately lead to a whole body imbalance.
Most traditional texts concerning breathing tell us that the diaphragm draws air down into the lungs, somewhat like a “pulling” force.
However more recent research on the subject shows that the body actually relies on atmospheric pressure to get air into the lungs.
Simply put when we contract our diaphragm (as well as many other “helper” muscles between the ribs), we simply are creating space inside our bodies, and air is “pushed” into our lungs by the natural air pressure that is around us at all times.
Imagine how difficult it is to create space in a body where the fascial tissue around the ribcage is too tight to let the body expand and create the space we need to breath.
It’s rather easy to see why most people rarely take a good breath on a day-to-day basis, not to mention why most of our clients experience an improvement in breathing from even the most basic bodywork techniques.
Even the slightest improvement will always translate to increased oxygen. This leads to:
An individual’s breathing shares impact with so many related structures.
To expand further on the subject of breathing, let’s focus on the pelvic diaphragm and some of the possible issues that can arise when dealing with a dysfunctional pelvic floor.
Take a moment and imagine seeing your upper body in a mirror, ranging from your pelvis to the top of your ribcage.
Now take away your shoulders and arms. What basic shape do we have?
Looking from the front, we should see an egg.
The ribcage is smaller at the top, and the pelvis acts as a wide base at the bottom, with ideally equally curved sides to the ribs. This shape gives us a perfect example of breathing from our center, which would be like breathing in the yolk of the egg.
What do you imagine happens when excessive tension is applied to the pelvic diaphragm?
In our egg example, the pelvis (and pelvic diaphragm) should ideally be shaped like a bowl, and should act like a bowl supporting our intestines.
Under too much tension from the legs (the deep front line), the pelvic floor can very well become conical (cone like) in shape, restricting someone’s ability to breathe completely into their core, which otherwise forces them to breathe into the chest.
The reverse can also be stated about individuals who develop too much tension in their ribcage, chest, and upper abdominals.
The only available space that can move to allow air into the body is the lower abdominal (belly breathing) and the pelvic diaphragm itself.
Neither of the above mentioned circumstances is really a desirable state of function, and the real goal to keep in mind is about creating balance between structures.
The pelvic diaphragm is truly essential to creating healthy full-body patterns. The pelvis itself is often referred to as “The Keystone” by therapists who practice manual therapy and bodywork.
The ideal bowl-like structure of the pelvis, as well as it being structurally balanced and stable, provides near perfect support.
It enables our “egg shape” to breathe completely from its yolk, as shown in Figure 2 (click to enlarge).
Taking a gradual approach to improving one’s breathing, rather than trying to force improved function into the body’s multiple diaphragms, will help ensure that the body does not revert back to old habits and dysfunctional patterns.
“Sit up straight!”
“Pull your shoulders back!”
Have you ever heard these phrases?
Maybe an occasional mental reminder to try and improve your posture? It doesn’t seem to last long, does it?
At Hands On Healing, we believe it’s important to follow the trend and show the value of healthy lift in the ribcage.
The ribcage itself is no exception to the rules of tissue compression, and can create dysfunctions in its own right.
When we as therapists assess a client’s posture it is not uncommon to see that the space of the rib cage, between the upper spine and sternum, is highly compressed which changes the “egg” shape of the torso making a person looked slouched (We can all probably think of someone with slouched shoulders).
Figure 3 (click to enlarge) depicts an internal image of slouched shoulders, which is in fact the sternum being drawn towards the upper back “through” the ribcage, more so than the shoulders themselves just rolling forward.
Take into account that many of the primary shoulder muscles are attached to the ribcage, more or less acting as their anchoring point, meaning the healthy structure of the rib cage becomes essential to improve slouched posture.
All the efforts of “pulling” the shoulders back or “sitting up straight” fail quickly because the musculature attached to the ribcage has simply been overused for so long in an unhealthy pattern.
The real goal is to release and reeducate the pattern in the ribcage to create healthy lift of the sternum in the upper body, as shown in Figure 3.
Many of our previous articles have focused on seeing the interconnected relationships shared by different parts of the body.
Improving healthy lift of the sternum and ribcage is certainly no different.
A healthy pelvic alignment will support the spine, which in turns supports the ribcage, thus lifting the shoulders and so on.
This is why we as therapists place such importance on posture, as it is the cornerstone of ensuring that each and every movement you create is not only supporting your healthy alignment but helping to prevent injury and keep you out of pain.
As you work to develop a healthy structure, healthy functional movement between related body parts is not far behind.
Awareness of your breath and learning to properly breathe can rewrite years of damage done to the body.
Have a conversation with your therapist during your visit at Hands On Healing to see just how you can become engaged in the process of improving your breathing.