The One Muscle Everyone Should Lengthen!
Updated: Mar 9
How often do you feel stiff and tell yourself that you should perhaps stretch a bit?
You may even go as far as to actually google some stretches and do them a few times.
But then life happens, and especially now with gyms and fitness studios being closed, it is hard sometimes to stick to the stretching.
However, if your time is truly limited but you want to feel better, have more energy and increase your mobility, the one muscle that you should find time to work on is diaphragm. Yes, you read it right. It is not the most obvious muscle to stretch for everyone but it is truly important.
Breathing through your nose and using diaphragm will ensure that you use your lungs to optimal capacity and get more oxygen into your system. More oxygen means better ability to heal, more energy, increased mental performance, improved sleep and longer life. It also means that the other muscles that assist with breathing, such scalenes in the neck, won’t have to work overtime trying to move the ribs to create more room for the lungs.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that lies at the base of the lungs. When it contracts, it comes down creating more room for the lungs to fill up with air. On exhale, the diaphragm lengthens, moves upwards and the deep abdominal muscles tighten. We are born to use diaphragm efficiently. If you were to observe a child breathing, you will notice that their belly is moving and they have no problems with using abdominal breathing. As we get older, with stress and various demands of daily life, our breathing becomes shallower. The diaphragm shortens and forces other muscles in our chest, neck and back to work harder so that our body can get enough oxygen.
Shallow breathing where your chest is doing the majority of work and breathing through your mouth are also seen by the nervous system as a sign of stress which then results in production of cortisol, adrenaline and muscular tension.
What can you do then?
The good news is that it is never too late to undo the negative changes. One of the simple ways to do it is practicing abdominal breathing. It will help to lengthen and strengthen the diaphragm, and it is a sort of stretch that you can even do in bed. So really, there are no excuses not to do it.
One simple technique is to lie down, place one hand on your belly and another on your chest. Keep your mouth closed. The tip of your tongue should be touching the roof of your mouth just behind the top teeth but not touching them.
Breathe through your nose. Observe which hand has risen on inhale. You want the hand that is on your belly to come up and down as you breathe, and the one on the chest to have only minimal movement. Make a long exhale until you feel that the whole air has been pushed out from your lungs. Repeat for a few minutes every day.
If you have been breathing incorrectly for years, doing 10 reps of abdominal breathing once in a blue moon won’t bring you the results you are seeking. But if you do it daily, it will become your second nature and the more awareness you will have, the easier it will be.
Oxygen level is extremely important to our health; it is also an important part of our vitality test here at the clinic. If you are not sure what your oxygen level is and whether your breathing techniques may be contributing to your back and neck pain and stiffness, book an initial consultation or ask on your next visit.