Improve Your Breathing Coordination With the Alexander Technique – A Brief Self-Exploration Exercise
Every moment of your life is based on your breathing. Easy, confident breathing is a birthright. The Alexander Technique can help you improve every breath you take by strengthening your diaphragm no matter your level of health or activity. From singers and athletes, to those suffering from diseases such as asthma, emphysema, COPD or cystic fibrosis, everyone can benefit from even a small improvement in breathing. Lasting results will probably take more than doing the exercise from this article, but it can help you get started right now.
Breathing Basics – The Diaphragm
Most people breathe about 17 times per minute, or almost 25,000 times per day. In optimal breathing, the diaphragm performs as the main muscle of respiration. Other muscles of the torso are also involved in breathing, but only in a supportive role.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that makes a floor for the entire ribcage, separating it from the digestive organs below. While breathing can be either voluntary or involuntary,the diaphragm itself is an involuntary muscle and it cannot be moved directly.
During inhalation, the diaphragm actively flattens (contracts), lifting the ribs and compressing the abdomen below, causing the abdomen to bulge outward. The resulting increased volume of the torso creates a partial vacuum, causing air to rush into the lungs.
During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes upward, re-forming the dome and allowing the ribs to drop down and the abdomen to draw inward again. The resulting reduced volume of the torso pushes air out of the lungs.
Feel the Movement in Your Ribs and Abdomen
You might be able to feel the movement of your breathing by putting one hand on the side of your torso and your other hand on your abdomen. During inhalation, you will feel your hands move out. During exhalation you will feel your hands move in.
Inefficiencies can develop in breathing when muscles other than the diaphragm take on a larger role. If the muscles of the ribcage or abdomen are actively engaged, they can begin to supplant the diaphragm, causing the diaphragm to weaken over time. These muscles are not as well suited to a larger role in breathing, making each breath less coordinated and less efficient. Inefficiencies can also develop if the muscles of the ribs or abdomen are fixed or held rigidly which can impede the diaphragm’s movement. Audible breathing, the sound of air moving in and out of the body, can be a sign of excess tension in the throat or excess effort in your breathing. Optimal breathing is silent.
Improve Your Breathing
One of the most common breathing faults is pushing the breath with muscles of the abdomen during exhalation. You can easily feel for this by putting your hand on your belly, allowing a few breaths to pass, and then speaking. It is very common for muscles of the abdomen to unnecessarily contract during vocalization and you will probably feel a tightening of the muscles while speaking that is different from a non-vocalized exhale. This is a sign that you are doing some extra work with your abdominal muscles in order to speak, instead of simply allowing the diaphragm to rise. The less you actively use the muscles of the torso for breathing, the more you will rely on the diaphragm and, over time, the stronger it will become. Depending on your condition, the following exercise might help you to improve your breathing.
You can complete this self-exploration exercise within a few minutes.
- While you are reading this, sit all the way back in your chair and let your feet rest on the floor.
- Allow your neck to be soft and your breathing to be easy.
- Think of your breathing as ocean waves so that breathing is something that is happening to you as opposed to something that you are doing. Like waves, each breath may range from large to small, and they may come at regular or irregular intervals. Don’t be afraid to take a breath if you feel that you need one.
- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. For each exhale, allow your belly to soften and your chest to fall.
- With this same normal breath, use your mouth to silently count to five during each exhale. Allow your jaw to move easily and let the numbers run together, almost as if you are singing them. 1-2-3-4-5.
- Enjoy your exhale each time you count to five, take your time and smile.
- Do not count during your inhale. Just let the new breath pour into your lungs.
- Stop the exercise after six or seven exhalations and notice if you are breathing easier.
Benefits of Improving Your Breathing Coordination With the Alexander Technique
Anyone can benefit from improving their breathing. For those with breathing diseases to athletes and performing artists, improved breathing coordination can help you:
- Reduce the symptoms of asthma COPD, emphysema and cystic fibrosis.
- Improve vocal quality for performance.
- Improve athletic ability.
- Reduce insomnia.
- Improve systolic blood pressure.
- Improve general pain management, including back pain.
- Flatten your stomach. (Improved breathing raises your diaphragm. This allows for more room for your internal organs, making your stomach flatter.)
Source by Leland Vall