I’ve just begun to re-read the excellent Recognizing and Treating Breathing Disorders by Leon Chaitow, Dinah Bradley and Christopher Gilbert. The way the book is structured is fantastic, with the book moving from an overview of how breathing works, how it can go wrong though to how to treat. 2 things struck me as I re-read. The first was the diagram above, in terms of its simplicity and clarity. The cause and effect relationships, (the places where they may occur) allowing me to understand a pathway to try and help support someone to improve their health.
Someone has incredibly aching shoulders, head or neck pain – using above you can then track back and forth, together with someone suffering and begin to slowly unpick potential reason as to why. Recognizing this as a starting point then helpful in looking at how to move towards resolving the problem. I suppose one of the reasons I find this so useful is the fact it begins to help find a starting point. I always found (and still do) the hardest point of planning any lesson / coaching session around something new unravels once you have that starting point / template / map to work off. That ability to know where things are going to / coming from as a guide or starting point lets you go on a journey. So long as you avoid the temptation to follow the path blindly (as I have heard said before, this is just a map not the territory itself, so flexibility is key to respond to changes).
The second area that struck me as critical – and seems to be missed a lot from movement practice is the importance of the diaphragm to postural function. The diaphragm forms a key part of the providing core stabilisation:
For example, hip flexion cannot be performed without the stabilisation of the spine and pelvis. A stabilized spine and pelvis ensure stabilization of the hip flexor tendons . . . Breathing movements are an integral component of postural functions. Breathing influences not only body posture but, through its rhythmical activity, also neuron excitability.
(p.16 Recognizing and treating Breathing disorders 2nd ed (Chaitow, Bradley, Gilbert)
Which leads me to think how can this be utilised in movement – all movement (or for me more specifically running). Should we be starting with the breath, get this correct and then move into the dynamic part of exercise? With the diaphragm a key component of breathing function I wonder why this area isn’t stressed more when core work is being prescribed or taught? Let’s take one key core strength exercise – the plank.
Planking – great isometric movement – but is it really strengthening the core as effectively as possible? From the above quote planking without a specific focus on how you breathe, when you plank, is juts not as effective. Are you taking long slow nasal breaths? Getting the diaphragm to work to it’s full range whilst you hold still, shifting intra-abdominal pressure and exciting neurons (after-all the better out neurons signal, the better our muscles work).
Even better rather than just holding that plank, begin to throw in rotations and movements to add resistance and challenge – all the time maintaining the key focus on slow, steady nasal breathwork. The moment that goes that core stability work isn’t getting anywhere close to where it should be.
I’m looking forward to getting further into re-reading the book.