We’ve already talked about how to use breathing exercise to aid in stress management, but we use it more mechanically for rehab, too!
As much as breathing is an activity that is automatic and not something we consciously think about, there are muscles that help the lungs, especially when doing more forceful breathing exercises or breathing hard when working out
As we inhale and exhale with our lungs, our diaphragm and intercostals have work to do!
With inhaling, the diaphragm contracts and descends so that there is more space for the lungs to expand; the external intercostals help elevate the ribs to also expand the space in the lung cavity.
With a forceful exhale, the internal intercostals pull the ribs back down with a little help from our abdominal muscles, and the diaphragm rises back up to help push air out of the lungs
The diaphragm also plays an important role in managing pressure through our abdomen with our other abdominal muscles and pelvic floor - read up on some of Dr. Jess’s posts for more information in that category!
When we breathe, we want the ribs to expand 360 degrees - that is, in all directions all the way around our body! Many of us aren’t great at this for reasons such as limitations from prior injuries or even from positions we find ourselves in all day (like slouched in front of a computer). With the vast majority of us being pretty tight through our mid-back and sometimes around our shoulders, working on having our ribs move better when we breathe in those areas can be hugely beneficial.
Here are 2 different breathing exercises where we’re focusing on really expanding into our rib cage in different ways. With each breath, we’re making some muscles have to stretch if even just a little bit! Sometimes we use this as a precursor to or in addition to foam rolling!
Lying on your side, resting the top arm overhead if you can comfortable, and really trying to inhale into the ribs that are facing up toward the ceiling
This can be especially useful when people are having rib pain, if they’ve had a shoulder injury making the lats really tight, or even if someone has been having back pain on one side
Going into child pose, because most of us love this part of yoga class! As you stay in this position, trying to breathe into your spine from top to bottom. If you’re doing this well, it should almost feel like your shirt tightens a bit across your back.
This can be useful with pain anywhere in the back, particularly in the lower back or between the shoulder blades.