Our respiratory system is made up of organs and tissues that help us inhale and exhale through our airways, lungs, and blood vessels. This system doesn’t only help us breathe but it also helps our body receive the right nutrients such as oxygen, allows us to talk and smell, removes waste gases such as carbon dioxide, and also protects your airways from potentially harmful substances. If our respiratory system is disrupted it can affect our nervous, digestive, circulatory, and immune system.
Our upper and lower rib cage, abdomen, and diaphragm allow us to breathe in and out. The muscles surrounding these parts of our body also need to move freely with no restrictions so that we have enough space for our lungs to expand and contract. You may have had times when your breath felt shallow or constricted, potentially when you were feeling stressed or anxious. This is because when we are in a sympathetic (fight or flight) state our muscles tend to tense up causing a limited range of movement within our muscles. With our stressful lifestyles, many people have adopted a shallow breathing technique as their normal breathing technique.
How can shallow breathing affect us?
Overall less oxygenated blood is circulating through your system, which in turn causes;
Decrease in focus and ability to concentrate or think
Increase in blood pressure
Disruption of the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide within our body
Sleep issues and fatigue
Creates neck and shoulder tightness, which can lead to headaches due to not being able to engage our diaphragm so our neck and shoulder muscles will compensate for it.
Here’s a quick test to see if you are shallow breathing. Lie on your back, place one hand on your chest and one on your belly over your navel. Take a slow deep breath in - which hand moves first? The hand over your belly should be the first to move and should move the most. If this hand isn’t moving you aren’t filling your lungs to their capacity and therefore not providing your body with the oxygen it requires.
We have a great breathing video on our youtube channel by Laura.
4 Ways to improve respiratory health:
Deep breathing exercises. This can be done by having one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in through the nose for a count of 5, imagine air going into your diaphragm, allowing your belly to expand and rise. Now breathe out for 5 and let your belly drop and sink. Repeat this process.
Exercise. Doing regular cardio exercises can help improve your lung capacity and make it easier for you to breathe.
Improve indoor air quality by having indoor plants, air filters and proper ventilation to reduce the amount of dust, pollutants, and other harmful substances that are in the air.
Release the built-up tension through your thorax that is likely caused by gripping due to compromised posture. This gripping restricts your diaphragm causing shallow breathing. Soft tissue bodywork will assist with this.
How can massage help our Respiratory System?
Massage can help our respiratory system by calming down our nervous system and also decreasing the amount of restriction within our muscles surrounding our rib cage, diaphragm and lungs so that we are able to breathe more deeply.
As we’ve said previously massage helps our body enter a parasympathetic (relaxed) state. Being in a more relaxed state slows our breathing and allows the body to breathe deeply. When we are in a parasympathetic state our muscles tend to relax and become more elastic which can help increase movement around the rib cage and abdomen area creating our lungs to expand much more easily.
A qualified massage therapist may also work on releasing the muscles around your
chest, neck, and ribs to help open up your posture. Our therapists can also help you with a few breathing exercises helping you to go into a parasympathetic (relaxed) state.
Create a habit of awareness around your breathing and posture, once you are aware, with these few tips you can slow and deepen your breathing. You’ll feel the benefits almost immediately!