(NaturalHealth365) Naturally aligned posture is a most important step towards being pain-free. Our breathing habits determine our posture and our posture affects how well we can breathe.
The aging process brings our head forward, compressing the chest cavity and further restricting the movements of breathing. No matter how you look at it, poor posture leads to dysfunctional breathing.
Many yoga poses or exercises train our muscles to inhibit our breathing
Some athletes are literally stuck in the exhale, by doing exercises that keep the belly tight and flat. This unnaturally stifles the breathing process, while shortening the front of the body and pulling the head and shoulders forward into poor posture.
Exercising with our natural spine curves flattened restricts breathing, and forced tight abs can inhibit downward contractions of our diaphragm.
Keeping your back flat, knees straight, or pushing your belly out as you inhale will actually inhibit your ability to breathe.
How can we maintain optimal spine alignment?
Practice self massage, sit with good posture, and manage your stress levels with walking and deep breathing. Focused breathing methods can greatly improve posture by aligning your spine from the inside out. The aim is to get rid of ingrained tension so that breath happens easily and naturally.
How to use your breath to be pain-free, traction and align your spine
• Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet hip distance apart.
• Place your hands out to your sides, palms up, fingers wide open and your arms angled down in a V shape.
• Press your arms into the floor, move your shoulders away from your ears, and begin to inhale with round lips as though sucking in through a straw.
• Feel the movement of your entire rib cage as the air expands your body from the inside out. I call this the SIP breathing technique.
• On exhalation, make a sound like SSSSS and move the air out slowly, feeling your rib cage and abdominal muscles contracting.
• Do 5 deep SIP breaths, sucking the breath in quietly while pressing your arms to the floor as though you were standing up. Do not fill to bursting or exhale to collapsing.
• On the 6th breath, do the SSSSS sound on exhale, then stop letting the air out but hold and accentuate the muscular contractions of exhaling for a few seconds.
• Begin to SIP in deeply while releasing the tension and allow your belly to release and your ribs to expand fully.
Standing breathing exercise
• Practice the SIP breath while standing and notice how each inhalation extends your spine while lengthening your waist.
• On exhalation, make the SSSS sound and practice staying lengthened in your waist as you let air out slowly.
• By keeping your waist long you exhale, you can wire your core muscles to stabilize your spine rather than compress it during the exhalation process.
• Relax, walk around the room and notice how light your body feels and how easy it is to hold good posture by practicing the SIP breath.
You are as young as your spine and as vital as your breathing habits. Using the SIP breathing method can also inform you if your posture supports your breathing.
Keep in mind, Yoga poses that make your body into a chair-shaped right angle with your knees straight will not allow you to breathe deeply and fully. Keep the curves in your lower back, do not lock your knees, and avoid externally engaged actions like tucking your tailbone. By practicing the breathing in positions that simulate how your body is designed to move, you will create a fluid and dynamic core and naturally aligned posture that will keep you pain-free.
About the author: Michaelle Edwards is a licensed massage therapist, yoga teacher, musician, and postural therapist living on Kauai. She invented a new painless way to do Yoga, fitness, self-massage and stretching called YogAlign that incorporates natural spine alignment and breath work to create good posture from the inside out. She is devoted to giving people the tools to heal themselves. Michaelle has a new book/DVD combo called YogAlign – Pain-free Yoga From Your Inner Core available at her website – YogAlign.com