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  • Writer's pictureGiulia Pline

How should I breathe?


Breathing is the most foundational and powerful core exercise when performed optimally.


Have you been taught to belly breathe? Have you heard belly breathing is good for you? Are you unsure how to breathe? Let's break it down and check out why belly breathing is not the most optimal breathing strategy...


When we breathe we should see some belly movement, but it isn't the only thing that should be moving. If you place your hands on your rib cage, you should feel that as you inhale, your ribs move up and out in the front, sides, and back, and as you exhale the ribs come back in and down.


Our primary muscle of respiration is the diaphragm. Our diaphragm is attached to the xiphoid process of the sternum, along ribs 7-12, and to L1-L3 (lumbar spine vertebrae). The diaphragm contracts and pulls downward which allows the lungs to fill with air as we inhale, and relaxes and moves back up to its resting position when we exhale. In order to capture full excursion (or movement/stretch) of the diaphragm and balance of pressure in our core system, the ribs and sternum need to move up and out in a 360 fashion when we inhale, and draw back in and down when we exhale.


If you are instructed to belly breath and not move your rib cage or chest as you inhale, but rather just push the belly out and in, you end up missing out on the full stretch and excursion of your diaphragm, the pressure throughout your core system becomes imbalanced, and consequently the areas above and below your belly like your neck and shoulders, and hips and pelvic floor can end up with issues.


Our ribs are attached to our 12 thoracic vertebrae and each one of the ribs is a joint that needs to glide and rotate. Imagine your wrist and hand were in a cast for 2 months (or maybe this has happened to you before), and what your wrist would feel after the cast came off... stiff and achy! So now imagine just belly breathing all the time and not moving your rib cage and how your upper back, chest, and shoulders might feel...


Now let's be clear, 360 rib breathing is not neck and shoulder breathing. One thing we want to be mindful of here is that the shoulders and neck stay relatively quiet as the ribs expand in their 360 fashion (see video at the end of this post for a full 360 rib cage breathing tutorial).






Neck

vs.

No neck






When we breathe optimally, we get an optimal distribution of pressure throughout our core system and can more efficiently coordinate the movement of our diaphragm with our pelvic floor.


This becomes especially important if you have pelvic floor issues like prolapse, where belly breathing can create more pressure down on the pelvic floor when there is already pressure because of the prolapse. Check out this video for more on belly breathing & prolapse:



I'll end this blog post with a quick tutorial on 360 breathing. Tune in and follow along to put all the pieces of what we covered in this blog together:




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