Breathing is the most common movement pattern we experience as humans. There are many different breathing techniques but the most important practice for our health is that we experience a variety of breathing techniques. Below is an explanation of a breathing technique used to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This “Pursed Lip” technique has proven effective in counteracting the effects of anxiousness and panic attacks. Most of our breathing is done by our autonomic nervous system which activates our breathing based on the environment around us and within us.
Pascal’s law states that pressure applied to an enclosed fluid will be transmitted without a change in magnitude to every point of the fluid and to the walls of the container. The pressure at any point in the fluid is equal in all directions. An example of this is pushing a water filled balloon into a countertop with our hand, the pressure applied against the water balloon will be transmitted without a change in magnitude to every point of the fluid within the water balloon as well as on the balloon itself.
Our bodies are the container in which there are many enclosed mini-containers of fluid found within. A principle in Osteopathy is that optimum health is achieved by improving the efficiency in which fluid transports nutrients and waste products into and out of the cells of the body.
One of the most beneficial effects of massage therapy is due to Pascal’s Law. When tension is felt within a muscle, the tension reduces the muscles ability to fully contract and relax resulting in a restricted movement pattern. As the massage therapists applies pressure to the tensed muscle, there is a transmission of that pressure throughout the entire body utilizing the same magnitude of the pressure applied. This is a powerful principle for the therapist to use as it can elevate the effectiveness of the treatment just by integrating a specific applied pressure against a dysfunctional muscle with deep breathing.
In Osteopathic Cranial treatments, we focus our attention on the functional patterns of motion within the cerebral spinal fluid or CSF. As the CSF is being produced and absorbed, there is a rhythmic motion felt as the CSF bathes the brain and spinal cord with this nutrient filled fluid. This tidal motion is further facilitated by our breathing which according to Pascal’s Law, pushes the fluid within our bodies to reach the outermost and innermost cells. Much like pushing our hands down on one corner of a waterbed mattress will result in the water being pushed out against the entire mattress.
Take a few moments today and stretch out flat on your back on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs and feel the tissue of your legs expand and swell with each deep rhythmic breath you take. Then experiment and place your hands on different parts of your body and feel the movement with each deep breath in. Even without touching your toes, you should be able to feel your breath in at your toes. There will be a pressure effect throughout your entire body just from breathing deeply.
Pursed Lip 1:2 Breathing Exercise
Remember, INHALING will excite your sympathetic nervous system while EXHALING will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Pursed Lip Breathing Exercise will be done in a 1:2 ratio of breathing. As example, if your INHALATION is counted at 2 seconds then your EXHALATION will be counted at 4 seconds.
Learn the technique:
Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and INHALE deeply through your nose. Begin with an inhalation of 2 or 3 seconds long. EXHALE through your mouth but with pursed lips to create a counter pressure to the breath out. Your exhalation should be either 4 or 6 seconds long. INHALE and EXHALE counts as one repetition, aim to perform between 5 to 8 repetitions.
During the INHALATION phase, make sure the breath goes all the way down into the bottom of your core allowing your ribs, diaphragm, belly and low back to fill with the breath. EXHALE the stress and relax into a state of bliss.
Relax. Repair. Restore.