Breath Inverted

Breathing is the shape change of the body’s cavities. — Leslie Kaminoff and Amy MatthewsYoga Anatomy 2nd Edition

Breath coordination is central to the production of sounds, safety in swallowing and yoga. The topic of breath is far too broad to broach in one sitting, so I will focus on its expiration. Breath is both voluntary and autonomic, meaning it happens without you thinking about it but it can be stopped or started, and manipulated in rhythm and time.

Breath does not solely concern the lungs. Think of the core body in terms of 2 cavities: thoracic and abdominal. As the thoracic cavity expands, the abdominal cavity changes shape and vise versa. According to Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition, the abdominal cavity is like a water-filled balloon; if you squeeze one end, the other bulges in a different direction. The lungs are like an accordion expanding in 3 dimensions (front/back, wide/narrow, and up/down). In yoga, often times you hear instructions to “draw a little more air in to fill the upper chest all the way to the collar bones”, ” fill the belly up with your breath” and “draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure the belly is empty of air.” Essentially, these breathing exercises are designed to change the shape of your abdominal and thoracic cavities. They are contained within the same structure (your body), so changing your body’s position (i.e. laying down, twisting or sitting upright) changes the efficacy of your breath. Breathing techniques are many and can be found in yoga books and but are not often emphasized on many speech sites.

Exhalation is a process of expelling air juxtaposed by the pressure in the lungs trying to return to its original volume. In school, we learn how little of our lung’s volume we actually use in breathing and in speech. In addition, forced exhalation is often inadvertently associated with abdominal contraction. Without thinking about it, the same muscles we use to strain during a bowel movement are used in forced exhalation. With practice and training, we can learn to use different muscle sets for exhalation in order to balance the shape shifting of our system to healthier patterns.

It makes sense to me that one of those ways of balancing the volume change of breath with muscular coordination is inversions. This is where I go on my own in drawing conclusions. The information above is paraphrased from Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition. The ideas below are my own.

If an accordion sits atop a water filled balloon, I picture a heavy accordion on a constantly squished balloon. This insinuates therapeutic interventions beginning with posture changes to lighten the load. The most extreme posture change being handstands, head stands and shoulder stands. Kids do them all the time, somehow channelling their body’s need for pressure change. It is difficult to manipulate the posture of the elderly, especially without assistance by a trained professional (Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist). Obviously, The elderly cannot usually manipulate themselves upside down. But they can lay at different angles supported in different ways (that a trained professional says is ok). The insinuations are endless in releasing tensions of the throat, strengthening of abdominals that can decrease the load of the lungs and in turn creating space in the throat for proper speech and swallowing.

The visual of an accordion and a balloon also helps explain the frequent incidence of Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in the elderly. Poor posture, weak abdominal muscles, and slower digestive system makes the balloon unsustainable.
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One thought on “Breath Inverted

  1. Pingback: The breath – a simple action often forgotten throughout the day – is a simple way to improve your overall health, all of the body’s functions, and your emotional outlook. | Family Survival Protocol

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