In recent years I have noticed that Having a Busy Life had become a popular trend, being busy has become the rule rather than the exception. As well as striving for success in the workplace, our families have various activities they need us for, and then we need to fit in some physical exercise to keep us fit and then we might try to have a social life! There is nothing wrong with a bit of healthy stress to keep us on track and achieving our goals. The stress response can be a very useful motivator to overcome procrastination and improve performance. But if our deadlines are starting to make us frantic, so that we are rushing to get into bed to hurry up and sleep, it is time to start thinking about Making Time in our day just to Breathe. Schedule into your busy Schedule! – a time to stretch your body, time to focus on breathing, time to recognise your body and what it may need.
Breathing is an element so automatic in our lives but we give it such little attention. Still, its role is the most important for maintaining our healthy body. If you lead a busy, demanding life, you may spend a lot of time breathing shallowly while you’re under stress. That kind of breathing can become habitual. Even when you’re not under stress, you may still breathe as if you are, unless you take conscious control of the process. Over time, this shallow breathing can result in rib cage stiffness and muscle tension, and may prevent you from taking in a deep breath.
Deep breathing relieves stress and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the nervous system by switching on the relaxation response.
During busyness or fear and anxiety, our diaphragm involuntarily flattens and we breathe in a shallow manner as our body prepares for action, engaging the fight or flight response. When you take rapid, shallow breaths, the lungs do not expand enough to allow for maximum oxygen transfer to the blood. This in turn does not expand the intercostals muscles of your ribs.
Deep breathing can help to reduce the severity and frequency of stress-related tension headaches, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease fatigue. To assist with the flexibility of your ribcage and to rewrite your body’s forward postural habit from normal everyday tasks, it is important to incorporate a stretch at the end of every day that reverses the forward posture and allows our ribcage more room for deeper more effective breath.
The stretch I recommend to open up your ribcage and to stretch out your body, reversing that unconscious forward posture, is to lay on a rolled up towel along your spine, or a posture pole, and open up your arms at 90 degrees so that the back of your elbows and the backs of your hands are on/near the ground. Do No Stretch that causes you pain, this stretch for most people feels amazing.
Then I would like you to focus on your breath. There are generally two patterns of poor breathing that lead to spinal pain. One is where you breathe too much into the upper chest -this puts more pressure on your neck as well as your upper back. The other is where you breathe too much into the lower abdomen putting pressure on your lower spine and pelvic floor.
Draw a line inbetween your lower ribs so that you can connect to the feeling of where they are on your body. Then whilst breathing through your nose, only allow the lower ribs to expand. It may be hard to connect to this feeling at first but it will engage the diaphragm and not your upper chest or lower abdominal muscles.
This little exercise only takes 5 – 10 minutes out of your day – Making time for your body to open up and stretch and breathe, makes time for your mind to slow down. The benefits will be stepping towards the beginnings of a healthy body and a healthy mind.