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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Movement Follows Breath: Structural Integration Frees Muscles, Expands Potential

Sep 02, 2016 01:41AM ● By Mikel Bensend

The way you breathe is the way you move through life. A constricted breath can limit you physically, emotionally and psychologically. On the other hand, the expansive breath can open up the world to you. If you can’t gain a full breath, you can’t exert yourself physically as well as you would like. You may tend to lock your breath into places that don’t support the freedom to expand; you also may find it difficult to expand past those limitations you’ve created. In stressful periods, do you constrict your breath? If so, you may find it hard to move, respond to those challenges, feel inspired or find inspiration in your life.

Few people ever consider how complex the very act of breathing is and how many parts of the body are actually involved. The diaphragm pulls down, creating a negative pressure environment inside the rib basket to draw air into the lungs. For physical exertion requiring more oxygen, you have muscles in the shoulders, neck, lower torso, and between the ribs to create a more dynamic and forced breath. Like muscles performing any other function, the muscles involved in breathing may become limited in function when not used properly.

How do these limitations really feel? 

Try this exploration: Stand comfortably and observe your breath at rest. Do you breathe more into your front or back, left or right side, upper torso or lower torso? Can you feel all of the ribs move when you breathe or are there places that seem to be “asleep”? Every area that you don’t gently expand is or can become an area of restriction. Without your conscious awareness, these areas begin to limit your ability to breathe fully and deeply. The lack of mobility in these areas also restricts your ability to twist, bend and flex. It comes back to the fact that if muscles aren’t used, they begin to atrophy and become unable to perform their optimal function.

The more a restricted pattern is present, the greater the effect on the entire body. Average resting rate for adults is 14-18 breaths per minute. A resting rate of 14 breaths per minute is over 20,000 breaths per day, and that’s not including an increased rate due to walking, climbing stairs, exercising and other movement. Restrictions in your breathing create limitations throughout the body. By freeing up the ability to breathe fully and comfortably, you give the body the support to open restrictions in all areas, the oxygen to assimilate the change in the tissues, and the energy to take advantage of this new freedom.

Rolfing or structural integration is ultimately about removing restrictions to movement and function, allowing your body to find freedom and balance. Goals for your first session in a Rolfing series include opening up structures to expand your ability to breathe so that you can assimilate more oxygen in preparation for the future changes. Because of the new freedom of breathing and the openness of the related structures, you gain increased mobility and flexibility with that first session and set the stage for all future sessions.

Mikel Bensend is a certified advanced Rolfer and principal at Westport Rolfing, with offices in Westport and Fairfield. Connect with him at 203-216-9770, [email protected] or See ad, page 17.

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