To have a strong body means we are better able to withstand stresses and strains put upon it in our day to day activities. A strong body will be able to move better, bend and flex, and be as pain free as possible.

A strong body begins with the spine. Our spines are designed to be able to take and withstand outside forces and distribute this force effectively up and down the spine. This is done by via the natural curves which our spines have along their length. Imagine, if our spine shape were to be just straight up and down, in a line. Any force exerted from external to the body will put an enormous amount of pressure on the spine wherever the impact hit. This will potentially cause huge spinal problems and damage. Yet with the spine gently curving one way and then another, it can absorb an external impact much more easily.  With our natural slight curves, the spine can distribute the force of an impact along its length, sharing the load across it. This makes it more mobile, agile and flexible, as well as strong.

Spinal curves - Holistic massage kneads

 

I often see clients who have back, shoulders and hip issues. Sometimes people who have been told they need to strengthen their backs have been exercising madly in a gym, or they have been stretching themselves to try and get rid of pain. In most cases, this does not work and there is usually a fundamental problem with their breathing. Our natural curves consist of the lumbar vertebrae curving inwards, in a lordosis, then curving slightly outwards over the shoulders in a kyphosis. This shape is something we develop from the time we learn to move and support ourselves as babies. When we breathe correctly it is these vertebrae in the spinal curves will strengthen and stabilise. When these vertebrae are strong, it is reflected in our hips and shoulders and our limb movements. The way someone breathes needs to be the primary focus in most corrective treatments.

 

What happens to our spine when we breathe?

When we breathe correctly into our lateral posterior ribs area, intra-abdominal pressure changes occur.

On the Inhale:

  • Pressure increases in the abdomen region
  • The diaphragm drops downwards
  • The thorax pressure decreases
  • This allows the lungs to fill up like a vacuum

 

These series of events create a pneumatic pressurised system which stabilises and protects the lumbar spine from movement. Your hips and ultimately legs are controlled by your lower lumbar spine. A strong lumbar spine allows better performance and minimised pain.

 

What happens when we breathe just using the tops of our lungs?

Shallow chest breathing results in the chest moving anterior on the inhale. This is a passive movement; it requires no muscular activity. This does NOT build up pressure in the abdomen and the diaphragm struggles to descend. The pressure down on to the lumbar spine area is increased, destabilising the area. Force through the legs is unable to be distributed well. It has been shown that chest breathers have a poorer oxygen exchange and less oxygen in the blood, which will affect how well the muscles work.

Problematic posture - Holistic massage kneads

 

We tend to breathe in the way we have trained ourselves. This can be changed; we just need to notice when we are breathing poorly. Notice your posture, change your position to enable effective breathing. More posture information can be found here.

Try standing with your hands on your hips. Now move your hands upwards by a hands width to feel your ribs at your sides and notice how they dip down lower round towards your back. Now try an inhale through your nose and notice how these ribs move outwards as you do so. This is the area you need to focus on for your breath to reach to and your ribs to move. This will then create the pressure needed to support your spine.