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I went to an osteopath recently to treat lower back pain (had a very tight quadratus lumborum or QL muscle). I left the appointment with a simple breathing practice that has not only improved my QL but has also helped with my anxiety levels.
The osteopath started the treatment by asking me to take a deep breath in and out through my nose. I did - ‘We need to work on that.’, she said. When breathing in, I unknowingly was lifting my shoulders pretty high. We don’t breathe with our shoulders.
Turns out this is a common problem among her clients, especially the younger ones. We’re always looking down at our phones & not only does this cause text-neck but also a closed posture. Our chest is constrained in this position so when we try to take a deep breath in, other parts of our body have to compensate. To help me breathe optimally, she prescribed a short practice first thing every morning.
It literally takes 2 minutes.
Sit upright with an open posture. Place your hands on both your shoulders and take 10 deep breaths in and out through your nose. Ensure that your shoulders are not rising up by placing gentle downward pressure on them with your hands. The focus should be on your chest/diaphragm expanding only.
When I first did this, my chest felt very constrained. I actually couldn’t take a full breath in without raising my shoulders. After doing this practice for a few days though, I noticed the following:
1. Mindful breathing throughout the day: Starting my morning with intentional breathing made me more aware of my breath. I began noticing how often I was taking short breaths or at times, even holding my breath in when I was stressed.
2. Improved posture: This exercise stretches open your chest. It drastically improved my posture & along with a few other exercises, helped relieve the tightness in my QL muscle too.
3. Decreased anxiety: My brain feels clear & relaxed when I do this first thing in the morning. I’m more centred throughout the day and if I find myself in a stressful situation, I repeat the practice.
2 minutes every morning, that’s it.
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previously on the blog: conserve mental energy at work