Breathing properly promotes effective oxygenation of the blood, focuses
the mind on each task and helps avoid unnecessary tension, particularly in
the neck, shoulders and mid-back. Exhaling deeply can also help activate
the deep support muscles of the body.
A three-dimensional breath pattern is encouraged, expanding the rib cage
in all directions without neglecting anterior, lateral or posterior portions.
During exhalation the rib cage closes in and down while the spine flexes
slightly. For this reason, an exhale is suggested to accompany and facilitate
spinal flexion. During inhalation, the rib cage opens out and up while the
spine extends slightly. Therefore, an inhale is suggested to accompany and
facilitate spinal extension. An exhale may be used during spinal extension
in order to maintain abdominal recruitment to stabilize and support the
In all exercises, the breath and awareness of stabilization should precede the
Experimenting with breathing
Noticing Natural Breath Pattern
With body supine, breathe smoothly, noticing the natural breath pattern.
Is one area affected more than others: the abdominal cavity, upper chest,
sides or back of the rib cage?
Breathing while hugging knees
Sit on a Mat, upper body and head rounded forward, hands resting on
knees or shins, neck relaxed.
Focus on sending breath into the entire rib cage, allowing the abdomen
to expand slightly. Avoid a shallow breath solely into the upper chest
Facilitate this breath pattern by palpating the lower posterior-lateral rib cage
and encouraging full expansion. There should be light engagement of the
abdominal wall, allowing the diaphragm to depress, and subsequently expand
the abdomen slightly.
Abdominal Wall Engagement
The abdominal wall (transversus abdominis in particular), which is a support
for the inner organs, also aids in forcing air out of the body as it compresses
the abdominal cavity. Contraction of the deep pelvic floor muscles will achieve
co-contraction of the transversus. Activation of these deep stabilizing muscles
should be incorporated into the breath pattern. Feel the pelvic floor muscles
gently contracting and lifting. Try seated or on all fours. To feel activation
of the transversus, lie in a neutral position and place fingertips just medially
to ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). On an exhale, perform a submaximal
contraction of the transversus, feeling it become taut beneath the fingers.
There may also be a flattening sensation along with a submaximal contraction
of the pelvic floor. Avoid the feeling of hollowing or pulling the belly button
toward the spine and there should be no muscle bulging beneath the fingers.
Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth can help regulate
the breath and encourage a fuller breath pattern. Exhaling through slightly
pursed lips may bring more awareness to the contraction of the abdominal
Breathing Supine (lying on back)
|Breathe in through the nose, expanding rib cage three-dimensionally.
|Focus first on gentle pelvic floor and transversus engagement. As you
exhale more deeply, the obliques will be engaged to help press the air out.
|Breathe in through the nose, maintaining engagement, feel
three-dimensional expansion of rib cage and abdomen.