When it comes to breathing, we are all aware that it is crucial for us to stay alive. So how is it that so many people need coaching on how they breathe? We are after all still alive right? Isn’t that proof that we’ve got that one covered? NOPE!
Sounds crazy right??
After 15+ years as a physical therapist and a pelvic and core specialist since 2010, it never surprises me when MOST all of my new patients initially struggle to take GOOD QUALITY breaths when that is the ONLY thing they are asked to focus on. Why might this be?
Well, to put it lightly, we have all been sucking it in probably since adolescence (see my last podcast episode on that). We live in a society where a super flat belly is the ideal and we have been conscious of this reality for years. We (women that is) also frequently purchase garments that suck us in, compression pants, underwear, slips, you name it. All with the goal of looking like we have a flat belly.
Additionally, our breathing is half controlled automatically. We shouldn’t HAVE to think about how we breathe all day long. And with this autopilot mode, it is highly linked to our sympathetic nervous system… think “fight or flight”. So when we are stressed, or intensely working on something, we will typically switch to a shallow breathing pattern.
Have you ever heard the phrase “sigh of relief”? Often after we are no longer stressed and tense or we hear good news, we FINALLY take that long-awaited deep breath.
So this is where our conscious control comes in. ALL of us need reminders to TAKE DEEP BREATHS! All of us. Because after months and years of shallow breathing, the muscles of our core team (diaphragm, abdominals, and pelvic floor) get left in the cold. They don’t get moved and stretched like they were designed to. So as a result, they stop working the way they should.
The core muscles become less responsive and less resilient. They struggle to manage the occasional LARGE demands of them such as managing the pressure from a hard cough or sneeze. Or that random jump on the trampoline with our kids.
Not to mention the fact that we can actually steer our nervous system to a less stressed state by working on our long slow breaths! Have issues with extra tense muscles in the neck and shoulders? Work on your breathing. Have chronic pain? Work on your breathing! Have constipation issues? Breathing. Have poor circulation in your legs? Yep. Breathing. Pelvic pain and tension? BREATHING.
Deep relaxing breaths stimulate a nerve called the vegas nerve. When it gets stimulated, it helps to reduce the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and increases the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). It also improves the movement of the entire core muscle team, the tissues of the trunk, the rib cage. It improves digestion by stimulating better motility. It helps with swelling by improving the lymphatic function.
My challenge to you is to take time every day to take slow and long breaths. Stretch them out to 4-6 seconds in and out. Do this for a period of 2-5 minutes. Get your body and head supported and relaxed. It will FEEL SO GOOD. And you have no idea how much your body NEEDS THIS!
If you find that deep breathing is hard to do, you DEFINITELY should see a pelvic PT! We are literally breathing experts!!
If you have any questions about this or want some help, just reach out and schedule a virtual consult!