Therapeutic Breathwork: tension to peace

Continued from Therapeutic BreathWork, Self-Care

Coordination of the outgoing breath with letting go of tension is an easy way to bring peace and stillness to the body and mind. It relieves pain and stress and relaxes muscles. There is a physiological basis for the influence of breathwork.

How does the body breathe?Gray112

The ribs attach to the spine at the back, and open and close like little wings with each breath. They are connected by cartilage to the breastbone at the front, and to each other by the intercostal muscles, so they move as a unit. These form the main joints of breathing.

The dome-shaped diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing. It separates the lungs and heart from the guts, and attaches to the ribs at the bottom. It takes effort or tension to contract the diaphragm downwards to compress the viscera (guts) for the inhale. The relaxation of the diaphragm upwards allows the air to leave the lungs. So, letting go of tension follows letting go of the breath.

441px-Respiratory_systemThe muscles at the back of the body, along the spine, gather on the inhale. In front, muscles coordinate to gently drop the pelvic floor, arch the back, and rock the pelvis anteriorly, to allow more room for the viscera (guts) to move downwards. On the exhale, the muscles at the back lengthen, and the other muscles release.

However, all the muscles of your body participate in gathering on the inhale and lengthening on the exhale, unless there has been some trauma and they are reversed. When I am working with someone who is in pain, or whose breath is stuck, I place my hands on your back muscles along the spine, and exaggerate the gathering and lengthening with the breath, to support your breathwork as it releases your whole body from tension. It works!

Breathwork in meditation, and healing

yay-1346165Breathwork is used in many forms of meditation to focus, calm and still the mind. It helps coordinate brainwaves for better learning, and releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that reduce anxiety and relieve pain. Contemplative yoga and conscious massage can also  bring mindful attention to the body and breath.

I encourage clients to use the breath awareness to release physical and emotional tension, to gain mastery of what is bothering them. (See Anger, Forgiveness)

If you have used breathwork to heal, leave me a comment–I would love to hear your experiences. Thanks!

Below, you will find some resources on how conscious breathing and mindfulness can support the body in healing:
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Barbara Conable
Alexander Technique
Rosen Method
Joan Borysenko, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
Verbal Point Holding and the Emotional Tone Scale
The Qi Gong Breath
Pelvic Power
YouTube on How Breathing Patterns Affect Neck Pain