Are you singing that song, yet? You know, the one by The Police?
Singing, by the way, is an excellent way to practice breathing properly. Before you break out into song, I have a question for you.
Do you have a lot of neck and shoulder pain?
Yes, it can be caused by the ravaging effects of rheumatoid arthritis, but it can also be that you may be doing a lot of chest breathing.
When the stress response is elicited, a number of physiological changes occur, including a change in respiration. This prehistoric programming is designed to help you fight or flee. However, what you perceive as stress today is very different from that of your forebears.
Without techniques in place to recognize and redirect, you could be inadvertently and unconsciously retraining your system to go into flight or fight mode. I know I was. I also know that I have far less neck and shoulder pain now that my diaphragm is doing the work. Those poor muscles of the chest, neck and shoulders aren't meant to be doing that job full-time.
Here's an exercise that I give to my clients before we begin working together:
- Place your hand on your chest. Take a few normal breaths. What do you notice about your chest and shoulders? Is there a lot of movement in upper body as you breathe? If there is, you are likely chest breathing, rather than breathing with your diaphragm.
- This time, sit up straight in your chair. Shoulders back and down, spine straight - as if someone were pulling you up from a string out of the top of your head. Lower lightly pressed against the back of the chair
- Exhale slowly for the count of 5 or 6.
- As you inhale for the count of 5 or 6, feel a slight pressure in your lower back against the chair.
- Repeat. Practice for a minute, gradually increasing the time so that this becomes your new normal - the natural way to breathe.
Now, you're ready to sing: