With everything going on in the world, the one thing that can help us calm down is to breathe.
Yes, Breathe. Such a charged word in light of recent events, namely, the Coronavirus pandemic affecting the lungs and respiratory system, and George Floyd’s death secondary to suffocation and police brutality/racial injustice. Both of these world events have caused overwhelm, and have focused and magnified the essence of being able to breathe.
Breathe. The key to life, breathing is such a simple thing, yet it can feel so hard, especially in moments of distress and major challenge. However, massive shifts come when we become present to our breath and body awareness.
Breath is the essence of our being, it is our inspiration. To inspire is to breathe. Our breath is a key indicator of how we are feeling, emotionally and physically. In traditional chinese medicine, the lung meridian is related to the emotions of grief and sadness. If we are not able to express
these emotions, or get overwhelmed by them, it will weaken the lungs and compromise their main function which is respiration.
When our breath is fast and shallow, we are usually fighting for survival, and there is some kind of stress or worry occurring. Our sympathetic system kicks into fight or flight mode. When our breath is slow and deep, we are relaxed, calm and feeling at ease. It activates our parasympathetic system and signals to our brain that we are safe to relax, repair and heal.
The lungs are protected and housed within the ribcage which can often become torqued and twisted, especially with activities of modern day living. The ribcage seems like a static structure, but it is actually somewhat flexible. The chest expands upon inhalation and contracts during exhalation while the ribs rise and fall with each breath.
Being in a forward flexion, defensive posture for most of the day contributes to us not being able to take in full, deep belly breaths. This happens because we are flexed in front of a computer all day, sitting while commuting in the car or public transit, slouching on the couch, and just in overall survival mode the majority of the time while dealing with plenty of stressors in our lives. Our spines become hunched forward, reducing the capacity for our lungs to fully expand. In turn, the ribs themselves shift out of proper position because the muscles holding them in place are weak.
I see this often in my chiropractic practice, it is called a ‘Rib Out’ of place. It is very common, especially in women, and usually appears as trigger points or knots in between the shoulder blades. Rib joints may feel very tender and inflamed. Most people feel relief from pain when these points get massaged and pushed on, however, that won’t solve the problem because it is actually the rib joint that is not in the correct and optimal position. Rib outs can show up with more severe symptoms like extreme pain and difficulty breathing. Every breath can feel
excruciating and pain may appear along the front, side, or back of the ribcage. Rib joint dysfunction can even mimic a heart or digestive condition.
In addition to poor posture, ‘rib outs’ may be caused by excessive coughing, extreme sneezing, forceful vomiting, over-exercising with improper form, and shifts in weight due to pregnancy.
Chiropractic care is one of the most effective ways to care for rib joints that are out of place, allowing you to breathe again. Opening up the ribcage by correctly aligning the ribs and spinal joints will allow flexibility, while protecting the important vital organs (heart and lungs) and is imperative for good health. Imagine being able to inhale deeply and exhale completely, fully feeling your breath which signals to the brain an overall sense of wellbeing. This in turn helps open up your heart chakra and cultivates coming from a loving space, which we need more than ever in times like this.
Exercises that help with stretching and strengthening the chest and ribcage are child’s pose, cat/cow, downward dog, scapular retractions (rowing), and pectoral chest stretches.
As always, I am here to help make sure your body and mind are functioning at their highest potential. Please get in touch if you want to breathe easy and be in full expansion and expression of yourself.
By Dr. Anita Rajan