Breathing is the essential life force. I have quite a few breathing exercises and articles on the benefits of breathing exercises. A common thing that effects our breathing is the tightness of our core muscles. Our core muscles can become tight due to various reasons. Some athletes are super muscular and have overly developed core muscles that can lead to tightness. Some folks that sit at the desk for long hours can have similar issues. People with injuries such as lower back strains can also have tightening in the core and all of these issues can lead to bad posture and poor breathing.
There are two major things I do to make sure I am breathing easier. These are: myofascial release exercises and stretching. I incorporate these as a part of my overall mobility/recovery work and I also try to perform these two things before I do my breathing exercises so that I can breathe freely and get the most out of my breathing exercises. Deep breathing can be great to remove toxins out of the body and become more oxygenated.
One of the main practices I do before a breathing season is gut smashing. You can see a video of myofacial release technique called gut smashing in video below. This helps loosening the core up for deeper and smoother breathing especially for my breath work exercises.
Psoas is a deep core muscle that connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur. Psoas is a hip flexer. Sitting at a desk for long periods can be super destructive to the psoas. The psoas over time becomes shortened and inactive during long hours of sitting and this can lead to a very weak psoas. This can lead to posture issues and can also effect your breathing. Sitting for long hours can cause the psoas to pull the spine towards the legs making the pelvis shift forward and this can lead to lumbar lordosis. Lordosis is an exaggerated lumbar curve which is shown in picture below.
A weak psoas that is shorted can pull on the thoracic spine and cause a rounded upper back as well. A shortened weak psoas can lead to numerous postural problems and all of this can effect your breathing as well.
Below is a video from Dr. Kelly Starret on Psoas myofacial release:
After the psoas myofacial release I work on Psoas stretching. Below is a video of psoas stretches by Smart Stretch.
Psoas muscle ties in to the diaphragm muscle through connective tissue or facia so it is very important that you do myofacial release on the psoas and stretch it regularly to help with your breathing. The psoas is also connected to the reptilian brain. This is the most ancient part of our brain stem and spinal chord which is a part of the brain that associates with survival instincts. Some scientists believe that fight or flight responses are linked to the psoas muscle. The fight or flight responses triger the psoas. As I mentioned psoas is a hip flexor and this starts the initation of fight or run (flight). This is a muscle that is connected to our primal instincts and basic daily stress might lead to sympathetic responses that can possibly trigger this muscle.
Years ago I was watching Judo athletes compete at very high levels and one day I saw an athlete freeze and choke under pressure and lost due to this. My coach told me that the athlete forgot to breathe and that is why he lost. At the time, this did not make any sense to me but since the psoas is a part of breathing, the stress response possibly caused his psoas to tighten up and possibly interrupt this breathing.
The samurai always knew fear was associated with the gut and after learning about how the psoas was linked to physiological responses I realized they had a deep understanding of the human anatomy and physiology even at that time period
I believe that life stressors can cause the psoas to shorten and get tight which can lead to disruption of your breathing and damage your posture and lead to chronic pain such as back pain, thus I recommend psoas stretching and myofacial release techniques to be implemented regularly.
After I do gut smashing, psoas smashing and psoas stretching, I start working on my lower back muscles. I do some myofacial release with lacrosse balls to loosen up the lower back. In video below Dr. Kelly Starret demonstrates some myofacial release techniques for the lower back.
Right after the lower back myofacial release I also do some lowerback stretches as shown in video below:
After all the myofacial release exercises and stretching for my core, I start my breathing exercises. You will notice that you will be able to breathe deeper and get in to deeper states of consciousness during your breathing exercises/meditation. This is a routine that I came up with by myself and has served me greatly.
As I mentioned sitting can can lead to mechanical changes to the psoas and can lead to postural problems that can affect breathing. In this article, techniques shown lengthen the psoas but additional to this strengthening of the psoas should also be done. This is a whole new topic and I will discuss this in other articles exercises to strengthen the psoas to hep with fighting issues with spine that can be caused to sitting for long periods at a time.