The action of breathing is taken for granted, and the benefits go far beyond simple respiration.
Improving the quality of breathing aids in long-term health as it calms the nervous system promoting circulations and digestion, and contributes to trunk stability.
The diaphragm, a parachute shaped muscle, is located below our lungs in the abdominal cavity and attaches from the rib cage to the spine. Not only does the diaphragm draw in air for respiration but it also reactively contracts with movement to help stabilize the core.
Moreover, as well inhale the diaphragm contracts and lowers increasing the abdominal cavity pressure providing additional support. In patients with low back pain, alterations and poor contraction have been noted within the diaphragm. A lack of contribution from the diaphragm forces the low back musculature to compensate for a decrease in spinal stability, resulting in the potential overuse of these muscles.
Re-focusing on the quality of breathing can restore proper diaphragmatic function, decreasing symptoms of back pain and even restoring proprioception (the ability to know where a joint is in space) within the spine.
The simplest way to assess and train you breathing is through lying on your back, placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach to feel your breathing pattern. Make an effort to allow the abdomen to expand with each inhale, and deflate with each exhale, minimizing the motion felt within the chest. As this becomes more natural begin to slow the rate of each inhale and exhale.
Simply breathe, and focus on the quality of this action, with time this normal breathing pattern will re-set within our nervous system and we will be able to appreciate how simply breathing can optimize our health.