This post is inspired by a question I received on my website.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could breathe like we’re in child’s pose all the time? This is actually something I address in my classes. When we are horizontal the muscles of the core are relaxed and help us breathe deeply. The two deepest layers of the abdominal muscles are actually muscles of exhalation and need to release for inhalation to allow the diaphragm to descend. The deepest layer, the transversus abdominis actually has fingers that go into the diaphragm so when it releases the diaphragm can lower and when it engages it can slow down the return of the diaphragm to its pre-inhalation state. When we are controlling the diaphragm’s return we have control over our breath and our voice. In a horizontal state like lying on the floor or in child’s pose this all happens easily but when we are upright the abdominal muscles are busy being muscles of structural support and are busy holding our body upright. The solar plexus is also a vulnerable place in the body and many of us hold tension and emotion in it, which can contribute to us holding our bellies fast inward causing shallow breathing. Posture exercises even teach you to hold your core tightly inward toward the spine. That is fine but we also need to have the ability to release the abdominal muscles to take deep breaths. Here is an exercise to help free the breathing muscles of the body: Begin in lying in supine pose on the floor with one hand on your belly and the other on the bottom of your ribcage on the side of your torso. Take some time to sense the breath coming into the body and what muscles expand when you inhale and what muscles release when you exhale. Make whispered “shhh” sound, which is a sounded exhalation, and see what muscles engage. When we use our voice we are actually exhaling but it is a controlled exhalation different from an unvoiced exhalation, which is a fast contraction of the diaphragm back to its pre-inhalation state. The sensations that you should be feeling are your belly moving outward on inhalation and the bottom of your ribcage should be expanding. The whole waist area may expand like you have a life preserver around it. When you make a “shhh” sound you should feel the belly contract and some gentle muscle engagement of the waist area, maybe even between the bottom ribs. Take a deep breath and then make the “shhh” sound and get a comfortable rhythm of inhalation and exhalation happening. Do this for a few minutes then slowly, keeping the breathing and “shhhing” rhythm, roll to your side; after a minute see in you can push yourself up onto your knees in an upright position; see if you can keep the same sensations of expansion for inhalation, gentle muscle engagement and closing of the ribcage for exhalation as you come upward. Can you come to a standing position still keeping your breathing and “shhhing” the same as when you were in corpse pose? If when you are upright your breath becomes shallow, start over. You may have to practice this exercise numerous times. You can also do this exercise with just breathing. Inhalation should always be an expansion of the body and exhalation a controlled closing. Always think, the belly goes out for breathing and the belly goes in for exhalation or sounding.