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Alexander Technique Cheshire Newsletter
On Breathing
February 2015
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On a recent snowy Friday, Mr. L called to thank me for teaching him to breathe well. He was waiting to be released from a brief hospital stay, where he was admitted for his chronic problems with water retention, heart disease and pulmonary difficulties. Before discharge Mr. L's breathing was examined by a Physical Therapist who complimented him on his technique, mainly to breathe out and let the in-breath take care of itself!

About a year ago Mr. L moved to another state to live with his daughter. In his initial sessions with me, he was quite incredulous that we would spend so much time on the out-breath; after all he felt he needed more oxygen and therefore needed to get more air in!

Being a retired engineer he slowly began to accept the physical and physiological basics behind my arguments, and then of course: it works! the breath falls in rather effortlessly after we create the right conditions in the lungs by emptying them and releasing the breathing muscles.


Needless to say, this gracious gentleman thinking of me that day, warmed my heart!


Wishing you warmth and space to breathe, 

Michaela Hauser-Wagner

Book Recommendation: The Tao of Natural Breathing by Dennis Lewis
Here is an excerpt from the book, headlined THE RESPIRATORY MUSCELS:


"Healthy breathing involves the harmonious interplay not just of the rib muscles, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm, but also of various other muscles throughout the body. These include the extensor muscles of the back, which keep us vertical in relation to gravity, and the psoas muscles, which connect the vertebrae in the lower thoracic and lumbar areas to the pelvis and thigh bones, and are involved in both hip and spinal flexion. Unnecessary tension in the muscles of our shoulders, chest, belly, back, or pelvis - whether it is caused by negative emotions, physical or psychological stress, trauma, injury, or faulty posture - increases the level of carbon dioxide in our blood and interferes with respiratory coordination. It also overstimulates our sensory nerves, which as we will see later, has an unhealthy influence on our overall functioning."

Some Breathing Basics


If you like, pause for a moment to connect with your present breath; where do you feel it, what do you sense about it and what do you know about it? Can you let yourself know of one ingredient that stands between your current state of breathing and what you would like your breath to be like?


In this brief writing I cannot do justice to the complexity of the breathing mechanism, neither on the level of its anatomy nor in describing the many facets of breathing education and breathing skill. But I decided to begin a new group, BREATHITUDE, to explore and develop this life-giving force. See details in the announcements below.


For now I will focus on the diaphragm, the main breathing muscle, which originates from the inside of the lower ribs and the spine, where it reaches with longitudinal fibers downwards along the lower back vertebrae. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that inserts into its own central tendon. It separates the thoracic part of the torso (ribcage/lungs/heart) from the abdominal part of the torso (digestive organs), only penetrated by vital transport tubes like aorta, vena cava and esophagus.


All muscles have an active phase, in which they contract and a passive phase in which they release. What do you think or know is the active phase of the diaphragm? Where does it go, when it contracts? Let this question stand before you, do not tense in your wish to know the correct answer. Wait a moment, don't rush. Most of all - do not hold your breath!


Breathing is an autonomous nervous system activity that does not need our consciousness in order to function. The breathing center sits in an older part of the brain, the brain stem, and reacts when the organism's oxygen level gets low. Various nerves cause the diaphragmatic muscle to act, that is to contract, that is to lower! So that was the correct answer: the activation of the diaphragm causes it to flatten and lower. By doing so it pushes the ribs outwards and presses the abdominal organs down, which causes the abdominal wall to protrude a bit.


Here is the right moment to deal with the concept of so-called 'abdominal breathing'. The breathing motion that can be felt deep down into the belly and pelvis is a passive movement resulting from the diaphragmatic pressure downwards on the inner organs. This movement is best felt, when we are lying flat on our back, because that is the position with the least amount of muscle tone in the abdominal muscles. This type of deep breathing has its place, but it is the realm of rest, meditation, calming, pain control...


A deeper understanding of the breathing mechanism must include layers of intercostal (between the ribs) muscles that contribute to both, inhalation and exhalation. In addition there are nerves sensing the fullness of the lungs and reversing the process of inhalation to exhalation. The skilled use of this complex apparatus provides the right breath for everyday activities and for highly skilled application by athletes and artists.


For lessons contact Michaela at or call 203-988-834

Upcoming events


Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 12 PM: Alexander Technique, Posture and Back Pain at the Guilford Library in Guilford, CT. Lunch and Learn program in the Meeting Room


The next INTRODUCTION TO THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE in my new teaching space is scheduled for Saturday, March 7, 2015; 10:45 AM to 12 PM

Space is limited to 5 people, so please contact me by calling 203-988-8344 or by email Fee $ 10


Follow your Breath! I am beginning a new group! BREATHITUDE - named by one of my ingenious wordsmith students. I will be here every Saturday at 10:30 AM, except when I offer instead the bi-monthly Introduction to the Alexander Technique. Fee $ 10, signing up necessary! You will receive instruction about the mechanisms of breathing, understanding of the various types of breath depending on the called-for activity, and hands-on guidance in a safe and quiet environment. You will experience relaxation and vitality and explore different breathing activities. You will expand your breath by appreciating it more deeply.


Consider your voice! I am a certified Speech Language Therapist and offer individual instruction for the healthy and powerful use of YOUR best speaking voice, for personal expression and professional development.


Picture of the Month
There are so many cool things to share! I got permission from the Calefax Reed Quintet in the Netherlands to use the group's promotional photo by Rob Marinissen. In some future newsletter I would like to talk more about the head neck back integration they are demonstrating here. In the meantime please send me your comments thoughts and questions.