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shoulders hunch. This results in shallow upper chest breathing and strain on the lower back. Collapsed breathing at its extreme can contribute to depression.


Frozen


Frozen breathers hardly move when they take a breath. They take shallow breaths, which increases tension in their entire bodies.


Step 2: Mobilize your spine and ribcage At BODY HARMONICS, we work with the biomechanical per-


spective, and stick to simple exercises that focus on awareness and ease of movement to literally “free” your breath. We recom- mend incorporating some simple mobility exercises for the spine and rib cage into your day. These help our bodies to unwind and release excess tension. Try the cat stretch on hands and knees, shoulder rolls, and slow standing rotational movements starting at the head and working downward through the body. Gentle arm sweeps in all directions can be beneficial too. Anything that moves the spine helps you breathe more freely.


Step 3: Follow the path of your breath Gradually work towards more “generous” breathing. Breathe


according to your own rhythm to start. If you experience muscular tension or anxiety when you breathe, it is important to ease off. Sometimes, attempts at deep breathing can actually lead to anxiety and panic attacks. A simple technique we teach at BODY HARMON- ICS is to follow the path of your breath while inhaling and exhaling. Here is what we say to our clients as a way to release stress at any time of year:


“As you breathe in, allow air to travel in through the nose,


down the throat and into the lungs. To exhale, simply let the path be reversed and don’t blow the air out forcefully.”


Step 4: Explore different ways of breathing Explore different ways of breathing to improve the overall breathing capacity. The goal is to promote ease and adaptability, so your varied breathing needs are met without stress and strain. Most breathing exercises focus on either the diaphragm or the rib cage. Find a couple of exercises you like and do them periodically throughout your day. Your commute to and from work is a great time to practice! An exercise is effective when you feel like your breath- ing gets easier, and you see and feel increased rhythmic movement throughout your torso.


Benefits of Freer Breathing In addition to releasing stress, benefits of freer breath- ing include:


• Better oxygenation for the entire body due to a balanced exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lower lobes of the lungs. When our tissues are bet- ter oxygenated, the feeling of stiff, sore, tight muscles is noticeably reduced.


• Enhanced function of the brain, organs, and tissues.


• Normal speech is supported, so neck and jaw tension dissipate. • Mobility in the spine and rib cage increases, while rigid mus-


cular structures relax. This suppleness promotes the feeling of wellbeing throughout the body. • Muscle tone improves in all of the muscles associated with


breathing, from the pelvic floor all the way up to the scalene muscles along the cervical spine. This leads to a feeling of space along the entire spine, which makes moving easier and promotes feelings of openness to everyone and everything around us. • Digestive function is enhanced, because the movement of the


diaphragm helps to modulate intra-abdominal pressure and provide a type of massage for the organs. • And many more!


International Council on Active Aging Conference 2013


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November 21–23, 2013 San Diego Convention Center San Diego, California


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