“Breathwork” may be getting a lot of buzz lately, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it’s made out to be and you don’t necessarily need to go to a class or find a teacher to do it (though there can be benefit to a guided experience if you have a lot of trauma / stress to work on – ask for a referral to a qualified breathwork provider!)
Also, is breathwork really as effective as it could be if the signals to and from your brain are being interfered with by joint dysfunction in your spine or other joints? This is especially true in your mid-back, or thoracic spine, where your parasympathetic nerve cell bodies are mostly housed.
Your parasympathetic nervous system1 is what signals and controls the “Rest and Digest” functions of your body, such as digesting food, rebuilding muscle tissue and optimizing fertility, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system2 which you may know as the “Fight or Flight” system. If your midback is anything like most American’s, it has plenty of forward curve from sitting at a computer, looking at a phone, tending to small children and even standing at a kitchen counter preparing meals. There are a thousand and one ways that we keep ourselves in a perpetually rounded forward posture most days, which can create joint dysfunction in your mid-back between spinal joints and rib joints. Where your ribs connect to your spine (a costovertebral joint) are joints that never get a break from movement – thanks, breathing! No really, we want you to be able to take a deep breath in and out.
Not that most people do though! Most people breath with only the upper 1/3 of their chest and lung field, missing out on a huge portion of lung tissue and possible oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange. Now add on other repetitive activities, think typing, driving, sitting in a chair a certain way and you may have a recipe for mid-back joint dysfunction, which can then lead to nervous system dysregulation. This may show up for you as low-level general anxiety that you can’t put your finger on, foggy minded afternoons, slower digestion, feeling more irritable and many other troublesome symptoms.
What to do? Find a breathwork guru to take a class from while you’re trying to juggle the demands of work, kids, partner, extended family and the elusive “self-care” you’re supposed to be doing? How about simply taking a deeper breath to the bottom of your lung field and actually making those costovertebral joints move more and bring in more oxygen? Yes, even while you’re sitting there in your chair. Now repeat that 4 more times. You’ve just done a nervous system reset without needing to go anywhere and with a whole host of benefits – like decreased anxiety, improved vagus nerve tone (your vagus nerve is really important – more on that in the next blog post!), sending more oxygen to your brain and improving your mood!3
Want to level up even more? Pair some daily deeper breathing with a monthly chiropractic adjustment to keep all those midback and rib joints moving well and your nervous system will be ready to handle to 1353 emails in your inbox, kids’ sports practice schedule and planning your summer vacations!