“You want me to WHAT?????”
Oh the faces I get when I tell a patient for the first time that I want them to blow into a balloon. Sometimes there are outright refusals. But I promise you, I have a very important reason behind it all.
After several years of working with clients on breathing I’ve come to the conclusion that just about everyone these days has poor breathing patterns. Sure, I’ve treated several yogis and well trained vocalists and its always the same … poor diaphragmatic breathing. YES, I mean you, the opera singer that gets back pain every time she goes on stage!
So as a physical therapist, why do I care about creating good breathing patterns in my patients & clients?
Besides being linked to fatigue, lightheadedness, panic attacks, anxiety and even irritable bowl syndrome; poor breathing is integrated with poor posture and can lead to injury. When one doesn’t use their deep abdominals and diaphragm together to pull air in and push air out efficiently they compensate by using accessory muscles in the body that lead to excessive strain and torque. Most often this can be linked to neck and back pain, headaches, and shoulder pain. Most injuries are tied to poor “core”, and you can’t have an effective core without effective and efficient breathing.
“But Sarah, I’ve been working so hard at my belly breathing!”
If your belly is pushing out a lot, what do you think is happening to your abdominals? Are your abs expanding or contracting? When the belly expands forward, what do you think is expanding? Your lungs are not in your stomach. (HINT: your pushing your guts forward).
Yes, the diaphragm contracts on inhalation with belly breathing and that is a good thing…but I want more!
If the belly expands too much (a little is normal) one looses the synchronicity of the abdomen and pelvic floor maintaining proper core control. Instead, the lumbar paraspinal muscles and/or the neck muscles will overwork to help pull air in and can contribute to compression of the low back and tight, sore necks.
“Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” - Joseph Pilates
So what is good diaphragmatic breathing?
What does it look like?
When inhaling, the belly may expand a little but the rib cage should also expand in 3 dimensions - the front, back and sides (where the lungs are). If a person doesn’t breath and expand the ribs in all these dimensions, the ribs get tight and loose elasticity. The hardest dimension for most people, and arguably the most important dimension, is the back of the ribs, and when that area gets tight, the low back goes with it.
So how do I train good breathing? Stay tuned to learn how YOU can use a balloon can change your life….
“As much as necessary, as little as possible.”
Pilates on Breathing:
“Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.”
”You must squeeze every atom of impure air from lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum”. ”You must squeeze every atom of impure air from lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum”.
"Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs."
"The lungs cannot be completely deflated at first without considerable effort. With perseverance, however, the desired results can be accomplished and with increasing power, gradually and progressively develop the lungs to their maximum capacity." (note: lungs do not entirely deflate with conscious effort)
Pilates on Integration of Mind and Body:
“[Pilates] is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control over your body.”
“[Pilates] is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.”
“[Pilates] develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.”
“Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits. Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities.”
Pilates On Physical Fitness:
“Civilization impairs physical fitness.”
“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”
“Physical fitness is: “the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing out many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure”
“[Pilates] is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ‘ad-nausem’.”
“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” (Pilates said this one year before he died at the age of 87 due to health complications from a fire)
Doctor of Physical Therapy