So yesterday, we mentioned that the diaphragm was your main breathing muscle. It does not act alone. There are many other muscles that assist in the breathing process. More importantly, when these muscles are compromised through stress, strain or poor posture, they can impair our ability to breathe and limit the benefits of our breath.
You know where you are tight, areas in your neck and back that your carry your stress. Have you ever thought that besides being annoying and painful this tension that you carry around could be having effects on your ability to breathe and get oxygen to your body? It’s true. Lack of oxygen can produce fatigue, brain fog, and inability to remember details. It’s often why when people start stretching, doing yoga, getting massage or seeing a chiropractor that they report increased energy as one of the first benefits they notice. All because they are getting more oxygen in their bodies!
Muscles in the neck help to lift the rib cage allowing for expansion that is necessary to bring oxygen into the body to feed your muscles, digestive organs and most importantly your brain. When the muscles in your neck are tight (you know that block of concrete that is sitting on your shoulder….) they can’t lift the rib cage the way they are supposed to and you are not able to get the oxygen into your body that you need.
Muscles in your back allow for the ribcage to expand out and back also contributing to a full breath. It is very common to have tight muscles in the back, especially between the shoulder blades. When these muscles are tight we tend to depend on the muscles in our neck to lift the rib cage. Watch yourself breathe in the mirror…do your shoulders lift as you inhale? If your shoulders are doing most of the work, the muscles in your back are probably tight, restricting expansion through the back of the ribcage.
These tight muscles also create poor posture. Poor posture impairs your ability to breath. As muscles in the front of your neck gets tight they pull your head forward, making it difficult to pull the clavicle and ribcage up for full lung expansion.
Sitting at a computer, desk or driving for long periods of time shorten the muscles in the chest. These shortened muscles compress the ribcage and pull the shoulders in and forward. It’s like having a weight on your chest all day long. You wouldn’t put a bag of rocks on your chest and expect to breath, but that is exactly what poor posture can do.
Using the breathing techniques we’ve talked about the last couple of days can help relax tight muscles. Improving posture and your productivity. Tomorrow will be our last post on breathing (for now…) we’ll talk about how to improve your breath and posture through simple self-care techniques. Until then, you know what to do…just keep breathing 🙂