2 Tips to Breathe Easier

Let’s talk breathing.

It can sometimes feel like a lot of work to breathe. Like you don’t have enough air for everything you want to say.

And no matter how much you think of your diaphragm, a truly deep breath isn't always easy.

Breathing is a whole bodied experience in which we allow air to fill our bodies, filling a vacuum that we create by getting bigger.

And there are two main ways we create that space:

  • the movement of our ribs

  • the movement of our diaphragm

There are some misconceptions about both our ribs and diaphragmatic breathing.

First, our ribs. They get to move.

But when you see a skeleton like Max, it doesn’t look it. We even call it a rib cage, which is a terrible name, because cages don’t let things move.

In fact, that’s the whole point of ribs!

Each rib wraps around one half of your body.

As you breathe in, each rib moves up, swinging like a bucket handle, and increasing the space of your chest cavity.

You have ribs moving this way from above your collarbone, beneath your armpit, down your side, all the way down to your low back. It’s actually a lot of movement-- so see if you can allow that movement, feeling with your hands if you’re letting all ribs move in all those places.

Now, the diaphragm.

Who hasn’t been told they’re supposed to “breathe into their diaphragm?”

We think of "engaging the diaphragm," usually pushing our stomachs out to engage it. But that’s not how it works.

Your diaphragm is the main driver of breath.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that stretches along the bottom of your chest cavity.

It engages every time you breathe (no pushing required).

And when it engages, it descends from the middle of your rib cage down toward your abdomen. That movement causes organs below to move out of the way (which is that movement you feel in and around your stomach).

What your diaphragm is doing is creating space: not just your belly moving out, but actually in all directions. Expansive.

Notice when you breathe if you can feel the expansion in your low back.

Because sometimes, we don’t let it finish the job.

We hold ourselves tight, not letting ourselves expand all around.

And if we notice we're not breathing fully, we usually try to force a deep breath.

But that actually adds more tension. So try the opposite.

One Simple Breathing Exercise

Without taking a breath, just let all of your air out. And then notice how the air comes back in, in its own rhythm without any work.

See if you can ride the wave of your breath, getting out of your own way so you can breathe with the full movement of your ribs, diaphragm and the rest of your body.

This works because when we exhale, the diaphragm is getting to relax, and come to neutral.

It’s like hitting reset on our breathing, instead of trying to take control.

Again, without taking a breath, let the air out, and then let it come back in.