News You Can Use
Janet Alexander and Chris Maund
September/October 2014
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This issue continues our discussion of breathing mechanics and we find out why drinking plenty of water can make you more flexible. The secret is in the fascia...
Are You Breathing Correctly?

In the last issue we talked about the various things that can go wrong with breathing mechanics. Now we are going to focus on what good quality breathing should look and feel like. We'll also explain how to check the quality of your own breathing behaviour and show you some exercises to help improve your breathing mechanics.


A good quality inhale should start in the belly and spread into the chest. This sounds simple but most people do not breathe like this. To practice this lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a long slow deep inhale. You should feel your belly rise BEFORE you feel your chest move. If you feel only belly movement and no chest movement OR chest movement with no belly movement then you have a problem. If both belly and chest move together OR if the chest moves first followed by the belly that is also a problem.


Some of you will be able to correct your breathing mechanics just by practicing correct technique but others will find that they just cannot do the "right" thing. Stretching your diaphragm and doing a basic proprioception drill will really help if your dysfunction is really ingrained (it usually is!)


To stretch your diaphragm hang from a pull up bar with your feet on a small step or box (anything to allow most of your weight to go through your feet). Take a big inhale and try to expand your rib cage as much as hang your full body weight from the bar then breathe out (only let about 50-60% of the air out). Hold this position for 30s or until you feel the need to breathe. Rest for 30s then repeat two more times.


Your goal is to hold the stretch for 30s on an exhale while maintaining the ribs in an elevated position - hence the need to hang from a bar. Hanging MAKES your ribs go up! After doing this stretch many of you will feel big improvements in rib cage movement when you take a large inhale.


The photo below shows Janet doing this stretch. Note that the outer edges of her ribs are in an elevated position.



Now it's time to teach your body what to do with all that new rib cage mobility. Lie supine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. One hand rests on your belly and one hand rests on your chest.


Take a big belly breath in but DO NOT allow any rib cage movement. Hold this inhale and shift the air into your chest. Tip...suck your belly in so as to push the air into the upper lobes of the lungs and MAKE YOUR RIBCAGE EXPAND.


Continue holding your breath in and now shift all the air back to the belly...if your belly now looks like you have a bowling ball in it then you are doing this drill correctly! Continue holding your inhale and shift all the air back to the chest, hold for 3s-5s then shift everything back to your belly THEN exhale.


All these air shifting manoeuvres are done while holding an INHALE. Do not exhale until you have finished the entire sequence. This proprioceptive drill MUST be mastered if you are to have any chance of restoring healthy breathing mechanics.


The photo below shows Janet with air in her belly. The second photo shows what it looks like after Janet has sent the air from her belly up into her chest. 

Janet doing diaphragm proprioception


Diaphragm Proprioception


If you are having a hard time with this stuff give us a call or send us an e-mail. We are here to help!   


Water...Can It Really Make You More Flexible?

Most of us are aware that we should be drinking water every day but not many people know that the health of our fascia depends on water. Fascia is the white stuff that makes it hard to pull the skin off an animal. It is often referred to as "connective tissue". It surrounds all our muscles and every single muscle fibre. It encases nerves, bones and organs. It determines the shape of your muscles and your posture. Whether a muscle is strong or weak is in large part due to the state of the surrounding fascia.


One of the most important parts of staying healthy is to maintain the integrity of your fascia. Fascial integrity is undermined primarily by stress and dehydration. If you go on to YouTube and search "strolling under the skin" you'll find in vivo HD endoscopic video of living human fascia. You will see hollow fibres of collagen with water moving through them. Your fascial system cannot function well if it is dehydrated. Your ability to make pain free movement is determined by your level of fascial hydration.


What does all this mean? Simple...drink at least 2-3 pints of water every day. This water should contain minerals (so add some sea salt) and it should be drunk on an empty stomach to ensure that the water gets into the hollow collagen fibres. If you only ever drink water when you eat food then you are not delivering water to your fascia. A simple way to start a fascial rehydration program is to drink a pint of water when you get up then wait at least 30mins before you eat breakfast. Drink more water about 2.5-3 hours after you eat breakfast and wait another 30mins before you eat lunch. You can do the same thing late in the afternoon.


Some of you are probably wondering how this water gets inside the hollow collagen fibres. The short answer is "breathing and movement". Good breathing mechanics facilitate the pumping of water around the fascial system. Hence it is not enough to drink lots of MUST also breathe correctly and move your body. It's not rocket science!


That's it for now. See you in two months!