Functional Anatomy Investigated: Breathing - There's more to it than Inhale, Exhale PDF Print E-mail


Functional Anatomy Investigated:  Breathing - There's more to it than Inhale, Exhale

Column #42, 26th April 2008

Yes, we take breathing seriously.  It’s importance in inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is greatly appreciated.  Yet, taking a deeper look at the anatomy and the action of breathing will highlight its astonishingly positive influence on health and performance.

What can Disrupt our Breathing Pattern?

Our breathing is regulated by automatic mechanisms and can become more conscious during forced inspiration and expiration.  The point is that there are many factors that can affect the efficiency of our breathing, whether we are thinking about it or not and lets face it, most the time we are not.  Your brain and survival mechanisms ranks its importance highly but there are various disruptive factors:

  • Stress, worry and various pressures can occupy our thoughts and processes, which in turn upsets the regulation of quality breathing patterns.  Try this:  Sit and relax your mind and body.  Be aware of your breathing with a relaxed and loose body.  Now hold your head stiff (as if concentrating hard, or with something on your mind).  Note how restricted (shallow and laboured) your breathing becomes.
  • Nutrition and allergies may also have a profound affect.
  • Postural affects, whether due to a seated position or an occupation repetitive movement, can cause over and under use of the muscles that have a role in respiratory action.
  • Exercise/training practice.  When carrying out a training programme breathing should be considered and regulated during exercises and a well designed programme should produce a balanced structure to enable efficient breathing.

More than one Reason to Breathe

Focusing on developing a quality breathing mechanism can enhance your health and performance levels in many ways.  Lets look at some less obvious but interesting ways.

The body is not a random assortment of systems that act independently of each other and just happen to be in the same place and time.  Evolution has developed integration where there is interaction and synergy between all systems involved.  Hence, the physical action of breathing actually has a positive affect on other processes such as digestion, cognitive function, joint health and strength production.

The diaphragm is also a stabilising muscle.  This means that breathing helps maintain strength and stability for the spine and torso during movement.  Regulated breathing maintains the environment in which our brain and body operate.  For example, an acidic environment will influence many process from mental clarity and emotional stability to movement production.  Finally, the rhythmical movement of breathing aids digestion, circulation, organ health and spinal hydration.

Try this test:  Stand tall with good posture and take a deep breath in, filling your lungs to the bottom with your diaphragm, then right up to the top corners to your collar bone.  This may feel a little awkward, especially round the neck/chest, which could be due to certain muscles not being used to the movement/position.

There is a lot more to breathing than you may think, so go investigate it further to make sure you’re getting all the benefits.

Jack Walton
Written on Wednesday, 10 November 2010 14:33 by Jack Walton

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