It’s so obvious. Well, at least not on the first visit*
If you’ve ever had a session with me in Room 2 at The Glasgow Treatment Rooms you’ll be familiar with the lettering. As you turn around to lie face up you’ll spot the words on the ceiling:
It brings a smile to the client on the table: “It’s so obvious! Why didn’t I notice that when I came in?”
I guess it’s similar to breath itself.
It’s always there. The act of breathing is the very essence of our existence; as it flows in and out of our bodies it’s is the elixir keeping us alive.
The quality of your breath is rather important. And over time, like the rest of our bodies, it evolves and adapts based on the stimulus it receives on a daily basis. And it’s an often overlooked topic when dealing with pain, particularly in cases of chronic back pain and discomfort.
The Mechanics of Breath
In order to address breathing mechanics it makes sense to start with the muscular framework of the trunk.
Do you ever note the quality of your breath? Is there a deep, steady rhythm? Is it short? Shallow? Fast? Slow? Does it come from the abdomen, or does the chest lead the way in your breathing patterns?
Think back to a time that you’ve experienced a stressful situation. Or tweaked a muscle in your back. How did your breath respond?
For now, just notice how you breathe as you’re reading these words.
Let me introduce a concept that allows you to physically connect with the breath: the inner unit.
Most of you will have likely heard of the term ‘core’. Core means different things to different people and is often regarded as something we have conscious control over; I much prefer the term ‘inner unit’ to avoid any confusion with the multitude of definitions and interpretations.
A well-functioning inner unit is not something that we can ‘switch on’. It acts reactively and intuitively to stimulus from the environment and from the movements we place ourselves in.
The Framework of the Inner Unit
The inner unit is essentially the musculature that surrounds the trunk of the body, most notably:
- The diaphragm
- Internal obliques
- External obliques
- Transvers Abdominis
- And the musculature of the pelvic floor
Through movement we can use the muscles of the inner unit to connect to the breath. In an ideal and more primal environment, movement variation through carrying, running and lifting would take care of the breath and the supporting inner unit. But we now spend a large proportion of our time doing repetitive actions. Most of which involve sitting. A lot!
Can sitting, driving and repetition affect the inner unit?
If you can imagine the inner unit like a balloon, those modern-day habitual patterns of bending at the hips and flexing the spine in a seated position compresses the balloon.
Do that often enough for months and years and your body will adapt the functions of the inner unit to deal with the compression stimulus. The outcome is often an alteration to the breath and a less optimal chest breathing pattern.
Remember, bodies respond to the stimulus they repeatedly receive
This is worth repeating.
Now stop reading again and be aware of your natural breathe at this moment in time. Observe. I’m going to give you some interesting ideas to improve the quality of your breathe over the course of the next few blog posts.
*FYI, I’m in Room 2 on a Monday and a Saturday. Come and check it out; it is ridiculous the amount of people that don’t notice the glaringly obvious font on the ceiling!