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We all do it, every second of every day. So why do you need to learn anything new about breathing? Well, because most of us have lost the ability to breathe fully! Nowadays we often take short, shallow breaths which can have a negative effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. 
 
But we’re here to share some information we find fascinating and to discuss how breathing relates to massage and sports. 

Why do we breathe? 

Well you probably know the answer to this. If we don’t breathe then pretty soon we’ll die! We breathe to move air into and out of our lungs. We take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide through gas exchange. The air that we breathe in has a higher percentage of oxygen than the air we breathe out. You probably remember that from science lessons at school. 

What is ventilation? 

Ventilation is the term for the movement of air to and from the alveoli of the lungs. The two aspects of ventilation are inhalation and exhalation. Blood vessels surround the alveoli of the lungs and this is where the exchange of gases takes place. The air with a higher oxygen level transfers into the blood, and the air with higher carbon dioxide levels leaves the blood to become the air we breathe out. And thankfully, plants and the oceans absorb that for us. 

What muscles are used? 

The main muscles that are used in breathing are the diaphragm, external intercostal muscles, and internal intercostal muscles. These muscles are located in between your ribs and expand and contract your ribcage as you breathe. However, there are other muscles that support breathing such as your anterior, middle and posterior scalene muscles that are located in your neck. Because we generally use upper chest breathing instead of belly or diaphragmatic breathing, our neck muscles get over-used. 

Breathing and Anxiety 

How you’re breathing is a real indicator of how you’re feeling. The link between breath and your emotional state is highlighted in an NHS leaflet written by Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital. 
 
“Breathing is one of the few bodily processes that can either be voluntary or involuntary. Breathing can take place automatically without thinking about it, or we can alter it consciously and at will. Because of this unique relationship between our thinking and bodily processes, our breathing pattern can play a deciding role in how much we are affected by stress.” 
 
Here they give a great guide to diaphragmatic breathing exercises that can help with anxiety and reduce stress levels. 

Breathing to improve your physical health 

I have been practicing yoga semi-regularly for a few years now but only recently, during lockdown, have I become more dedicated. With that has come a deeper understanding of the importance of breath work when doing yoga. I have also seen a massive improvement in my ability to get into or hold poses when my breath flows with the movement. 
 
Another master of breathing techniques for health is Wim Hof. If you haven’t heard of him definitely check out his website. He has achieved some amazing things and has classes to teach everyone his methods. 
 
The basic idea is to oxygenate and alkaline the body in order to gain benefits such as stress reduction, better sleep, improved sports performance, and more focus and mental clarity. 
 
Breathing is just one of three pillars in the Wim Hof Method; the others are cold therapy and mindset training. 
 
I have been trying Wim Hof’s method after my sister started doing it months ago and found a lot of her issues had gone after only a few weeks. For me the morning is best just after you have wake up. At first you can feel a little lightheaded, but you do feel amazing all day. 
 
I haven’t quite mastered the ice baths yet but I’m getting there one limb at a time! 

How can massage help with my breathing? 

As we mentioned, there are numerous muscles that support inhalation and exhalation, some of which are the scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, quadratus lumborum, serratus and pectorials. When you feel the signs of stress your shoulder girdle rises, preventing you from full deep breathing. This results in the muscles of the neck and pecs to become shortened and tight. Sound familiar? 
 
Massage can release the tension found in the neck and shoulder to aid the correct muscles needed for deep breathing. 
 
By using certain sports massage techniques we can even help you to ease this tension remotely via our virtual appointments. 
 
Not only will it help you to breathe more easily but it will improve your posture at the same time…2 for 1!Conclusion 
 
To book your session just go to our booking page and choose your slot. 

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Taking a moment to think about how you are breathing and how it changes in different circumstances makes you realise just how important it is to our health and how we actually can have a positive effect on it for very little effort. 
 
Just giving some of these techniques a go will show you what a difference it will make to stress levels, feelings of relaxation or how much energy we can give to ourselves. 
 
Put aside just 10 minutes and give it a go. 
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