Sit up tall. Roll your shoulders back. Lift your chest. And take a deep breath in. Do that 3 more times. How do you feel?
In general, we are frequently under-utilizing the power of taking in a full breath of air. Proper inhalation provides a significant amount of oxygen to circulate throughout the body for muscle activity, brain function, and the list goes on. In some cases, there’s an underlying condition like COPD or asthma that inhibits proper breathing mechanics. Or, it can simply be chronic stress and poor posture that prevents deep inhalation. In many cases, massage can help relax the chronically tight muscles and facilitate the expansion of the rib cage to promote deeper breathing.
In order to address the muscles involved in breathing, the massage therapist may focus on the muscles in the front of the neck and shoulders. These are referred as the accessory breathing muscles. For example, the scalene muscles in the front and side of the neck help lift the first couple ribs for greater lung expansion. Other muscles contract to pull on other areas of the chest and back to help fill the lungs with air. To address these other areas, the massage therapist may spend more time along the rib cage and around the mid-back area.
If you perform the short exercise in the beginning of the article, you’ll notice that simply changing your posture promotes taking in a deeper breath. Today’s common posture includes shoulders that are rounded forward with the head translated forward. Over time this posture causes chronic tension in the pec muscles, the muscles around the shoulder blades, and the muscles in the front of the neck. Focusing massage on these areas of tightness can naturally improve posture and, in turn, improve breathing.
Finally, relaxation is powerful. When in a state of stress or anxiety, or just in the midst of a busy day, we tend to take shallow breaths at a faster rate than normal. It is impossible to reach a relaxed state when breathing this way. Yet another powerful reason to consider massage… an investment in your health. Taking the time to allow yourself to relax for just one hour per month can have an extremely positive impact on your overall health. We encourage many of our patients and clients to take advantage of our massage membership program to gain the benefits of regular massage. Click here for more info. Enjoy your next massage knowing you’ll breathe easier!