Many times it is very obvious that you are not breathing correctly, other times it’s not so obvious. As we’ve already learned, faulty breath control is a result of a maladapted movement system struggling to find stability.
Whether it’s in response to pain or trying to hold back road rage to the person who just cut you off, controlling our breath is not usually something we need to think about. There is nothing at all dysfunctional about shortening our breath in these types of situations, in fact, it’s a necessary coping strategy oftentimes. The problem comes, when these strategies carry on too often and for too long a duration. They alter the quality and integrity of our normal breath control which in turn distorts the way we perceive our environment. Not only does this affect our posture and movement…it can alter our state of mind, our appearance, and even our capability to manage stress.
If we were to take a moment and consider what it FEELS like to breathe, so much of what we have been learning would make even more sense. Beyond the sensation of air passing through your nose or mouth, it is the expansion of your rib cage and your belly that we associate with the act of breathing. If you checked in right now to your body you will easily be aware of this…or at least you should be.
Something though that you perhaps have not thought about is that the nature of how your breath moves your ribcage and belly, changes based on what position you are in. At the end of the day, you must have the skills to properly execute breath control in any given position that you find yourself in. Otherwise, the one that you default to, might serve your immediate needs at the expense of your future ones.
The recruitment of accessory muscles to breathe happens all the time depending on what position your body is in, but the main muscle entrusted to control the breath is without a doubt the diaphragm. This is the muscle that creates pressure in your belly and a vacuum in your lungs when it pulls down and engages for inhalation. It also then pushes air out of your lungs when it relaxes for exhalation.
Another common way that faulty breathing occurs is when you hold tension in your diaphragm making its normal movement virtually impossible! Pretty much the same way you strain to lift something heavy!
Truth is, when we brace ourselves like that for stability and breathe shallow, it forces the upper ribcage to be overactive with inhalation, and because of the way the diaphragm attaches to the spine it actually pulls it forward affecting our posture. This is the link between faulty breathing, faulty posture, and faulty movement.
With all of this in mind, it’s pretty clear now how important it is to be aware of faulty breath control and even more importantly, to know how to improve it.