We’ve all heard that being aware of and improving our breathing pattern is good for us. And there are so many reasons why improving your breathing is so important, it almost takes your breath away!
The pelvic floor and the diaphragm are intimately connected, as they both work to increase intra-abdominal pressure, which is one way that the “core” muscles help stabilize your body. In addition to helping you stay alive, the diaphragm is the top of the cylinder that forms the deep abdominal muscles.  Improving the work of the diaphragm can improve core muscle function, and reduce pelvic pain.
Did you know that having an altered breathing pattern can cause headaches and neck pain? The scalene muscles, found on either side of your neck, attach from the sides of your neck vertebrae to the first and second ribs. When you breathe with the upper back primarily (which we often do when we are stressed) this can lead to increased tension in the scalene muscles. Trigger points in the scalenes are often responsible for headaches related to neck pain.
Here is another interesting fact: diaphragmatic breathing can actually help massage the organs from the inside out, thus improving digestion. You’ve probably heard of “rest and digest?” Diaphragmatic breathing is an integral component of allowing the body to move from the sympathetic (fight or flight) into the parasympathetic mode of the nervous system. Not only does this allow us to relax, it also helps us digest!
Here is a quick exercise to help improve your health through diaphragmatic breathing.
Lie on your back, allow your abdomen to relax. Bring your awareness to the natural rhythm of your inhale and exhale. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just above your pubic bone, to increase your awareness of this area.  Breathe more deeply with the next few breaths, noticing the hands rising with the breath.
Next, bring your awareness to the pelvic floor muscles (they are the muscles that line the pelvic bowl, and, among other things, control the flow of urine). To feel these muscles, contract as if you are cutting off the flow of urine. As you inhale, allow these muscles to relax and let go, bringing a deeper amount of breath into the pelvis.  As you exhale, gently contract the pelvic floor muscles (as if you are cutting off the flow of urine) and lift them towards your head. Hold this contraction through the exhale phase of your breath, then relax these muscles as you inhale again.  Repeat for 10-20 breaths.
Learn more about optimizing your health through improving your breath by attending my yoga workshop Creating Space for Breath. Friday, February 12, 5:45-7:15 pm.
~Michelle Downing

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