“Sit up straight! Don’t hunch! Good posture is important!”
There’s a strong chance you heard things like this growing up, and have even said something similar to your own children.
And it’s true that proper posture is important. Postural issues can cause pain, injury, and significantly impair movement and mobility.
Regular chiropractic adjustments can certainly help offset some of the damage done by poor posture. But as with any ailment, a holistic approach is best. This means the more lifestyle changes you can make to improve your posture outside of the chiropractor’s office, the better.
Of course, being hunched over our phones is a big part of the problem. And let’s not forget about the time we spend at desks in school and work. Kids spend years hunched over books and computers at a desk and then turn into adults who…do the same thing.
Regularly taking breaks from sitting to stand up and stretch is a great way to ease the tension on our backs and not wreak so much havoc on our posture.
But what if we were to tell you that how you breathe can also have an impact on your posture?
Well, it can.
In addition to strengthening the muscles surrounding the lungs, deep breathing can rearrange tension patterns of the spine and improve posture.
Practicing deep breathing regularly also gives you an opportunity to maintain good posture for several minutes as you strengthen underused muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Understanding deep breathing
The way you breathe has a significant impact on your health. When you breathe deeply, it can positively affect your heart rate, mental alertness, and blood pressure. It also changes how you position your body as it forces you into a more ‘natural’ position.
Regular deep breathing provides other benefits like stress reduction, improved cardiovascular health, stronger lungs, and better cognitive performance.
Unfortunately, most of us take very shallow breaths, which can weaken lung muscles over time and lead to tension in the upper body which may worsen posture. The good news is that you can begin using deep breathing and daily exercise at any time to reverse the effects of shallow breathing on the body!
What happens when you breathe deeply
Inhalations and exhalations are made possible by contractions in the muscles surrounding the lungs. The main muscle involved is called the diaphragm, which is a very large muscle inside the lower ribs, near the bottom of your chest.
When you inhale, the diaphragm will lift the rib cage and expand the chest cavity to allow air into the lungs. It is assisted by the intercostal muscles, which are located between your ribs.
The ribs will separate slightly as the rib cage lifts away from the hips. Because the ribs are attached to different segments of the spine, this action will also elongate the spine, reducing pressure on the intervertebral discs and strengthening muscles in the torso.
Regular elongation of the spine from deep breathing eventually increases the space between the joints. This improves the spine’s capacity to twist, bend forwards and backwards, and bend sideways.
While deep breathing and using the full capacity of your lungs, you also reinforce the natural curves of the spine. The upper back, neck, and shoulders are more likely to come into their optimal ‘natural’ position. This can reduce tension in the upper body and help you develop better posture.
How to practice deep breathing
Learning how to breathe deeply is pretty simple. One of our favorite techniques is to breathe in deeply and count to 4 before releasing your breath over another 4-count.
You should notice that your abdomen, ribs, and chest are all pushed forward as you breathe. The shoulders, neck, and spine will naturally be pulled into proper alignment during this action. To check that you are breathing correctly, place your hand on your abdomen as you breathe in. It should move outwards slightly as air fills your lungs.
Here’s a short but effective video that walks you through a few stretches and breathing exercises specifically for improving posture.
If you struggle with poor posture and are experiencing pain or limited mobility, our chiropractors are here to help! Schedule a visit today at a Keith Clinic Estramonte Chiropractic location near you.