Yes, we automatically breath. There is no switch. However, we don't always breathe efficiently. If we had a dial to turn for the right amount of gas exchange, muscle response, and expansion for our lungs, it would be so advantageous for our health. Well, we actually can alter the dial!
Think of a breath starting with a full inhale through the nasal passage with the respiratory diaphragm muscle contracting and moving downward. Of course the lungs are playing their part as they bring oxygen in because they now have the room to expand. The volume and pressure changes reverse during expiration and the exhale is somewhat passive.
What happens over time, stress, and postural inadequacies is that the recoil of the diaphragm lessens. There is a magical cranial nerve that is activated when the diaphragm goes through its full range. This nerve, called the vagus nerve, is essential to all systems of our body especially the nervous system. So, if the vagus nerve is unable to engage the part of the nervous system that is in charge of calm functions of the body then the body is existing in the opposite nervous system mode more often: fight or flight.
Musculoskeletal shifts also take place when our diaphragm muscle is not able to do its full job. There are muscles attached to the diaphragm that are also attached to muscles that affect our back and hip joints. Since the body is a kinetic chain, we cannot get away from other structural effects upstream (and downstream). The good news is re-learning the best breath patterns is not hard. The body and brain connection is quite amazing and with a little bit of effort (a slight turn of the dial) a lot of good for the body and brain can manifest from dialed-in breathing!
Karla offers breath coaching sessions both virtually and live. Posture coaching and somatic (movement) integration are always included to produce the best results for the client.
She also provides free videos that remind how and when to practice breath. She calls these "Red Light Reminders" because the traffic light is a perfect place to pause and implement a practice that has already been taught to the client.
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Additional Red Light Reminders are available on PRiSM YouTube channel: