Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2021

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86 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 1 When it comes to working with the breath, there are two things I try to remember: awareness and contradiction. THE AWARENESS The ability to be aware of one's emotional state, known as emotional intelligence, is essential to mental health. Emotional intelligence helps us redirect and create an understanding of our moods and mental states, resulting in decreased stress levels. Emotions, feelings, reactions, and interactions are daily occurrences, and they can be both exhilarating and detrimental. When we become aware of those human conditions, we begin to have more control over our lives. The same concept is true for our breathing. We breathe. Every day. All day. For our entire lives. We breathe without being aware of our breath. It is so automatic that we, thankfully, don't have to concentrate every time we inhale or exhale. Could you imagine? Multitasking would take on a whole new meaning. For most of us, our breathing patterns are set with the help of our autonomic nervous system (ANS) by around 10 months of age. But it is also one of those funny human traits that straddles the fence between the ANS and the somatic nervous system (SNS). We can control our breathing to a certain extent (a somatic state) by slowing our breathing, breathing through our nose or through our mouth, holding our breath, or breathing rapidly. We can even shift the innate pattern that has been established by our ANS if we really focus. With awareness and consistency, the change in our breathing can settle in and become the new norm. THE CONTRADICTION Belly breathing is the bomb. Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing is rooted in yoga, tai chi, and meditation practices, and has been all the rage among high performing athletes for a handful of decades. Buddha's Six-Pack Serratus and Intercostals, with a Diaphragm Chaser BY ALLISON DENNEY technique | THE REBEL MT In order to belly breathe, you have let go of your belly. The tissues of the abdomen need to relax to allow for the shifting of internal structures that the diaphragm demands in order to pull air into the lungs. But hold on a gasping minute! I thought we were supposed to keep our abdomen engaged? I thought the complex formation of the transverse abdominis crisscrossed with the obliques and the rectus abdominis was supposed to be strong and act like a big old support belt worn by those guys who do deadlifts at the gym? I thought tight abs were cool? Well, abs are cool, but let us remember yin and yang. Let us reflect on balance. Let us meditate on Buddha's six-pack, if you will. The balance of all things, the light and the dark, the up and the down, are all basic Eastern principles we learn in massage school but are easily forgotten when not applied on a regular basis. The ripped beach body and the Buddha belly—both are awesome. And both need each other.

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