Breathing… Even though it keeps you alive for 5 more minutes there is so much more to it!
As a massage therapist, I was trained to scan a clients’ torso to see if they are breathing (or not) for a couple of reasons.
One is, that if the pressure is too hard, they are flinching, which is counter-productive to easing muscle tension. Two, the act of breathing (or not) is a reflection of whether the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system is still on high alert with stressors, or whether they are starting to relax and gear down.
If I notice that someone is not breathing, I ask about the pressure. And if the answer is “fine”, I might move into a little guided imagery for body awareness. One that I suggest is relaxing in a certain area, like the front of the throat, the “belly”, the lap, the armpits, the face, the feet. Sometimes we slowly walk awareness through the body together from feet to head, “turning out the lights”.
Then I will move on to asking them to breathe in spots that seem constricted, even if they are not directly related to the diaphragm. You can breathe in your face, lap or feet, didn’t you know?
I like to give the analogy of breathing from the lap to the chin. Think about your torso as an air mattress. Before you start to fill an air mattress, it is flat and folded. As air is pumped in, it starts to expand, filling out the shape of the rectangle and push out the corners. By the time it is filled up, the air pressure has made the mattress firm.
Our hips and shoulders are “the corners” of this internal air mattress of our lungs. Without sufficient pressure the whole torso is weak, just like an air mattress that goes flat by the morning. No wonder our shoulders and legs bother us! We don’t have sufficient air pressure to keep us afloat!
“Breathe! – Because you get to!” (You are still living, right?)
Fill up your air mattress!