Bodywork that's more than skin deep

Massage therapy is just one part of a healing regimen. Yoga or daily stretching and breathing exercises are key elements in preventing injury, reducing stress and maintaining overall health. They extend the benefits of massage treatments! A balanced diet, exercise, plenty of water and laughter are also important aspects in a healthy lifestyle.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Take a Deep Breath...use your diaphragm!

Breathing is essential to life and we need oxygen in our bodies to live. However, most of us do not realize that we take shallow breaths that deny us the oxygen our bodies need to operate optimally. One way to remedy this is by practicing deep-breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing. We can use this very simple, yet powerful method to help relieve stress and ease muscle tension.

Breathing exercises can help relieve muscle tension around the thoracic area, the back, the shoulders and the neck. Deep breathing will also help stretch out an important dome-shaped muscle, the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the primary muscle of respiration.

The diaphragm is attached to the inner surface of the ribcage and has a central tendon that attaches to the connective tissue surrounding the lungs. This diaphragmatic tendon is directly connected to our ability to inhale fresh oxygen into the lungs. When you take a deep breath into your abdomen, your diaphragm's muscle fibers contract and pull this central tendon down. This creates a vacuum in the top part of the chest cavity "pulling" air into your lungs. When you exhale, this relaxes the diaphragm and central tendon allowing the lungs to deflate. When both your abdomen and the lower half of your ribcage are expanding, you are correctly stretching the diaphragm.

Deep breathing is beneficial because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a feeling of relaxation and promoting digestion as well as bringing increased amounts of oxygen to the muscle tissue. Try the exercise described below to stretch this important muscle and alleviate stress.

Deep-Breathing exercise.

-Lay down in a comfortable position on your back. Use a pillow under your knees for more comfort.
-Place one hand on your belly and the other on your solar plexus.
-Take a slow relaxing deep breath in through your nose. Breathe deeply into your belly.
-Be aware of your abdomen and ribcage expanding and inflating like a balloon.
-Once you've reached the extent of your inhalation, exhale slowly through your mouth.
Use pursed lips to allow your exhalation to be slow but relaxed. Exhale completely.
-Repeat for 5-10 minutes, or longer if desired.