Don’t I already do this? 20,000 times a day?
In reality, many of us are struggling to get enough air and often don’t even know it!
In this critical time of COVID-19 worries–and other high-anxiety situations–we must breathe well to feel well and even THINK well. Good breathing can also reduce inflammation in our bodies and improve immune system function.
How does breathing help me think or improve my immune function? Through the Vagus nerve.
Running from the brain through the core and ending at the pelvic floor, this amazing nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. The Vagus nerve has a strong influence on the diaphragm (your main muscle for breathing) and controls the activity and signaling for many internal organs.
The Vagus nerve can be stimulated, in part, by breathing well. Positive effects include better function of many organ systems, improving organ health, reduced blood pressure, relaxing of muscles, and reduced inflammation. This is vital to immune system function AND emotional health (a worthy subject for a future blog!) It stands to reason, then, the opposite happens when we don’t breathe properly.
Because it influences so many systems of the human body, when the Vagus does not function well, a vicious cycle of pain and dysfunction can occur. For example, tension and pain can cause inefficient breathing leading to mounting tension and pain. Depression, hormonal changes, and foggy thinking can also occur.
Who knew?! In fact, most of us are unaware that our breathing is dysfunctional and potentially leading to other problems. Poor breathing can be a result of chronic stress, pain, or just not wanting our bellies to “pooch”. Common neck and shoulder stiffness and pain could be caused exclusively by poor breathing. Many of the neck and shoulder muscles are primarily posture muscles that are overused in poor breathing, leading to pain. Healthy breathing, on the other hand, helps ease headaches, neck and shoulder pain, improve posture, and even enhance athletic performance.
How important is breathing? How can you fix it? Obviously, it is vitally important and never too late to start. We just made a tutorial video, at the NeuroAthlete clinic, that will help to get you started with some easy drills! It can take a few weeks to build habitually healthy breathing but the investment in you is well worth the effort. With a little practice, you will soon feel calmer and know it is contributing to keeping you healthy!
Start there and call me if you need any hints or are struggling with it. When I can open my doors to you all again, myofascial and organ work can further assist you in developing these habits. Until then, I know this will help!
– Yours in Health, Megan Howell, LMT