Room to breathe
Make space for the lungs
To fully inflate during an inhale, the lungs need room to expand. The rib cage lifts and opens a bit upon inhalation, while the diaphragm moves down toward the abdomen. When we breathe, these two actions create space for the lungs to inflate.
There is always room for more air!
After a few decades of adapting to circumstances and social norms, most of us breathe differently from the ideal outlined above. Stress, tension, worry, anxiety and other challenging emotions impact the way we breathe. Over time, we might develop a habit of restricting the motion of our ribs and our diaphragm.
Two common restrictions of the breath
- When the abdomen is held tightly, we restrict the easy downward motion of the diaphragm. If the diaphragm cannot move downward, the breath is limited.
- If we hold tension in the small muscles between the ribs, we restrict the ribs’ ability to float with the breath.
Make more space
Softening the abdomen allows the diaphragm to move downward during inhalation.
Bone surrounds the lungs on all sides, but the base of the rib cage is muscle (the diaphragm). Muscle is much more pliable than bone. Creating space for the movement of the diaphragm directly benefits the lungs.
Gentle massage to the abdomen helps relax patterns of muscle tension in the abdomen.
Lie down in a comfortable position with a pillow under knees. Place your hands on your abdomen.
As you exhale, gently increase your pressure.
As you inhale, release the pressure.
Explore your entire abdomen this way. With practice, you will notice that you can release tension and naturally increase the depth of your inhalation.