What is breath? Breath is the foundation of life and wellness and has been the focus of health and wellness for thousands of years in Eastern medicine. More recently this concept has finally entered the realm of Western medical research and development of data proving just this. Not only has research demonstrated the relationship between breath and brain health, digestive health, joint health, cardiac health, and neuromuscular health to name a few, breath has been demonstrated to be the foundation
and driving force for proper sleep and recovery.
In our Western reactive medical approach, we have developed the mindset that health care and wellness is treated once a problem (disease or pain) has developed. These problems are treated in an isolated manner, typically surgically or pharmaceutically treating more the symptoms of “the problem,” rather than the cause. Western medicine has also developed a confusion or rather a misunderstanding of who really should take responsibility for one’s health and wellness: the knowledgeable well studied medical specialist or you… or both?
Certainly, the separation of Eastern and Western medicine and the specialization of care separating treatments of the mind, body, and spirit have contributed to the reactive care approach of today’s medical care system. The result often is an extremely poor quality of life, albeit the reduced mortality rate so praised today. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel! More recently, Western medicine is beginning to merge with Eastern approaches to health and wellness. It has become very clear that utilizing both the responsive advancing care in Western medicine and the preventive and holistic approach in Eastern medicine saves trillions of dollars in care costs, not only for the health care system, but for the individual as well. Studies have shown a reduced cost in one’s health care by up to 50% when preventive approaches are utilized. The medical care system is doing its part with focused holistic and preventive care research, preventive care testing, and preventive care participation options. However, to progress towards a truly preventive health care approach, one must also put forth effort in making this change. Convincing one to participate in this progression can be challenging. Knowledge and a change in mindset are paramount to one’s accepting of and adapting to change. An individual needs to take responsibility for their health and wellness, become proactive in changing their mindset and knowledge in health and wellness, and engage in lifestyles that are proven preventive in nature.
Let us circle back to learning about breath and the basics of how the body works with respect to gaining and optimizing health and wellness. Being a part of the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system (conscious and voluntary functions of the body), the diaphragm is uniquely special in that it functions both autonomically and voluntarily. This means it continues to work whether we consciously use it or not, and that we have active control as to how we use it. The Thoracic Diaphragm
can be considered the “muscle of life” in that life depends on the efficient functioning of it, but quality of life depends largely on our skillful use of it. Having both autonomic and somatic ability, the diaphragm is the communicator between both nervous system responses allowing one to have some control over autonomic functions such as heart rate, lymphatic drainage rate, abdominal organ function, immune responses, digestion and so forth. Turns out, how the thoracic diaphragm is used will determine
whether the body goes into “flight or fight” responses or “rest and recovery” responses to its environment. If breathe is slow and rhythmic utilizing the thoracic diaphragm, rest and recovery responses are triggered causing slower heart rate, increased digestive and immune functions, increased cognitive brain functions, improved lymphatic drainage, and releasing of “happy” hormones. If breath is fast and short utilizing the diaphragm, the body’s “fight or flight” responses are triggered causing increased heart rate, reduced digestive and immune functions, reduced cognitive brain functions, reduced lymphatic drainage, and releasing of “stress” hormones. Therefore, HOW we breathe is vital for recovery health. Subsequently, HOW we use our diaphragm also plays a large roll in injury and disease prevention as it is the first necessary step in triggering and maintaining the “rest and recovery” process. A healthy rest and recovery process reduces the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as cardiac disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
Chronic inflammation develops because of imbalance in the body. The first sign of imbalance in the body is impairment in posture.
The first sign of the development of impairment in posture are communications from the body such as sensations of tension, pain, ache, stiffness, numbness/tingling, and impairments in body functions such as urinary incontinence, abdominal bloating, limb swelling, constipation to name a few.
If ignored, the body is unable to keep up and incomplete “rest and recovery” occurs leading to chronic inflammation.
Preventive care is most successful when initiated during the first signs of imbalance or stress. This can be implemented simply by:
1. Listening to your body’s complaints: Do not ignore them! Learn how to acknowledge and respond correctly to promote recovery of strained tissues and maintain a balanced posture!
2. Promote “rest and recovery”: Learn to breathe optimally and mechanically correct with your
Learn to change your mindset through education on how the body works and how to promote optimal healing and recovery. Be Proactive by implementing breath and neuromuscular exercises that promote optimal healing and recovery.
Implement Lifestyle changes that promote optimal sleep, healthy diet, and healthy physical activities.
At Tricore Wellness, a team of professionals provide assessments and guidance on nutritional, physical, and emotional health. Individualized programs are developed to determine your areas of imbalance and guide you to a proactive, healthy lifestyle! Gaynell is a Tricore team member specializing in the areas of pelvic and abdominal health, recovery health, and breath training.
Dr. Gaynell Anderson, DPT OMPT CHC