Amazing fact: breathing is the only involuntary bodily function that is also easily controlled voluntarily. This unique property makes breathing a powerful mind-body connector. Our stressful, sedentary lifestyles can lead to improper breathing patterns that contribute to chronic pain and tightness throughout our bodies. Instead of using our diaphragm properly, many of us use muscles in our neck and upper chest to inhale, contributing to fatigue and achiness there. Reset your breathing pattern with this simple exercise.
Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and your knees bent. If necessary, place a small pad under the back of your head to level your chin and forehead (neutral cervical alignment).
Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. As you inhale through your nose, feel your stomach rise first, followed by your chest. Exhale fully and feel your chest lower first, then your belly. When you are completely empty of air pause for a count of 4. The pause helps your diaphragm and ribs function as they’re meant to. Inhale again and repeat for 5 breaths.
Next, move your hands to the sides of your ribs. Once again inhale fully through your nose. Feel your ribs expand laterally into your hands. Don’t let your shoulders hike up toward your ears on the inhale. When you keep your neck and shoulders relaxed on the inhale, your intercostals (the small muscles between the ribs) stretch to make room for the air. Exhale fully. When completely empty of air, pause for a count of 4. Then inhale again. Repeat for 5 breaths. This may take practice. Be patient and focus on the ribs widening as the neck and shoulders relax.
For more on breathing and 3 other simple exercises click here.
I welcome your questions and feedback about these exercises in the comments below.