Ideas For Restoring Health

by Mary Ann Wilson, RN

This past week Gretchen and I attended an all-day seminar on the Science of Recovery and Restoration presented by Dr. Kimberly  Byrd-Rider, a board certified physical therapist. We learned so many exciting exercises, especially with regard to breathing.

Although we associate breathing with the process of filling the lungs (inhalation) with fresh oxygen to be circulated throughout the body and releasing carbon dioxide (exhalation), so much more is involved during the act of respiration.

We use three muscle groups when we breathe. Can you guess which ones they are?  If you guessed: 1) diaphragm  2) abdominals  3) intercostal muscles, you guessed correctly!  The next question is do you know how these muscles work together to facilitate breathing? Let’s break it down into something visual.

First picture the main breathing muscles responsible for inhalation: the diaphragm and intercostals. Imagine the diaphragm as an open umbrella with the edges connecting to the ribs. When you inhale, the umbrella (diaphragm) lowers and flattens. This creates a vacuum in the thoracic cavity which in turn causes the lungs to inflate. At the same time, the external intercostal muscles contract and widen the ribs.

Now let’s look at the exhalation which involves the transverse muscle (part of the abdominal group of muscles). Picture this muscle as a corset which wraps all the way around the torso attaching to, and stabilizing, the spine.  To get the most out of the exhalation (and to strengthen your lower back), pull the transverse abdominal muscle in towards the spine. Visualize tightening a drawstring on your pants to cinch up the waistline.  It’s the same feeling as if someone punched you in the stomach.

Hopefully, these images will help bring awareness to your breathing and encourage you to actively engage your diaphragm, abdominals and intercostal muscles with each breath. I’m leaving you with three important breathing exercises to practice several times a day. If you do these exercises regularly, I know you will notice an improvement in how you feel and how your body functions!

RIB CAGE EXPANSION (Intercostal Breath)

Place your hands on the lower rib cage. Palms are on ribcage with fingertips touching in the center of body. Inhale deeply into the ribs and feel them press out against your hands. The goal is to breathe so deeply that the ribs push the fingertips away from each other. This takes practice. Repeat three times.

BACK RIB EXPANSION

Place the palms of your hands on the back lower ribs with the fingertips touching. Inhale deeply into the back, expanding the lower rib cage and feeling your back pressing against the hands. Repeat three times.

EXHALE WITH EFFORT (If you have COPD, do not do this breath work)

Place your hands on your waistline, just above the hips.  Inhale making the ribs expand and the back move (as you practiced in the two exercises above).  Exhale with effort as though you were sneezing out loud and pull the transverse muscle in toward the spine. Repeat these three exercises every two hours or as often as possible.

Getting the most out of our breath is the easiest way to improve how we feel on a regular basis. Use these exercises throughout the day, everyday, until you start to do them naturally, without thinking. At this point you will have formed a good habit that will serve you through life. Click here to practice these and a few other breathing exercises on YouTube with me!

Wishing you the very best in health and happiness, always!

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this helpful info. I am certainly going to be doing these exercises. I have just been diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension in which I am unable to exhale completely and therefore have carbon dioxide in my lungs. If you have any other exercised or suggestions that would be helpful will be greatly appreciated.

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