Massage & Bodywork

January/February 2011

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MINDFUL BREATHING body awareness BY BARB FRYE Let's start 2011 with some mindful diaphragmatic breathing. Why? Because diaphragmatic breathing is the golden key to managing your stress and promoting healthful body mechanics. The term diaphragmatic breathing refers to a type of breathing in which the focus is engaging the diaphragm as fully as possible and expanding the rib cage and muscles of the abdomen. This enables the diaphragm to fully descend and reascend during the breathing cycle. This can be seen as an expansion (ballooning) of the abdomen during inhalation, and a contraction (flattening) of the abdomen during exhalation. Because of these visible changes, diaphragmatic breathing is also commonly referred to as abdominal breathing. Here's an example of how diaphragmatic breathing can reduce stress and remedy uncomfortable body mechanics. Imagine this: you suddenly feel back pain while working. In response, your breathing becomes accelerated and shallow. By becoming aware of your breathing pattern and slowly bringing it back to the deep, slowed respirations characteristic of diaphragmatic breathing, you bring awareness to your body mechanics and reduce your back pain. It is essential that your breathing support you in this way no matter what you are doing: applying deep pressure, moving around your table, or simply initiating your touch. To develop a supportive breathing pattern, you need to become mindful of when your breathing is interrupted because of stress or pain, and then consciously return to diaphragmatic breathing. The following self-observation will guide you through a simple diaphragmatic breathing exercise. SELF-OBSERVATION mIndFuL dIAPhrAGmATIC breAThInG Action. Sit in a comfortable position or lie down on the floor. If lying down, spread your legs hip-width apart and, if you like, put a bolster under your knees. Allow your arms to rest comfortably by your sides. If needed, use a small towel or pillow under your head. Once you are comfortable, allow yourself to feel the floor supporting your weight. Feel. Now bring your attention to your breathing. Don't change anything about how you breathe, just become more aware of it. Ask. Do you breathe deeply or shallowly? Slowly or quickly? Do you breathe from your abdomen, chest, or both? Do you expand or contract your chest as you inhale? Do you expand or contract your abdomen as you inhale? Rest. 104 massage & bodywork january/february 2011

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