Respiratory disorders, such as allergies and asthma, can actually alter the body’s physical structure. In the case of respiratory difficulty, restricted breathing can create a misshapen rib cage. If breathing is difficult–or even scary–the body will distort around that stress, adapting by creating fascial adhesions, or scar tissue. Not taking full breaths creates the restricted structure, reinforcing the experience that breathing is difficult.
So how do we reverse this pattern?
First, you free the chronic structural and soft tissue pattern by releasing the chronic tension held in the body. Rolfing was specifically designed to remove the chronic tension held in the body’s soft tissue, and can reestablish the subtleness to allow the rib cage to move more freely.
Twenty years ago, I conducted a study on Rolfing with elite runners at Arizona State University. The biggest improvement they collectively experienced was increased vital capacity (the ability to take in more air). Even the world-class runners—including an Olympic marathon runner—experienced breathing improvements. Chronic allergy and asthma sufferers, after decades of breathing restrictions, usually see considerable improvement with Rolfing.
The other key factor with optimal breathing is to learn not to respond to stress in the old tension-producing manner.
When I had a clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, we operated a Mindfulness Stress Reduction program for hospitals and corporations. In the eight-week course, we often had students who experienced breathing problems. After a few weeks of teaching their mind and body to relax in the face of stress, the respiratory symptoms would decline. The core of the course was learning to feel, and then let what was occurring to occur. When we stop resisting our bodies, we stop tensing. For whatever reason, we learned to hold our breath when stressed; when we just let go and breathe, the stress seems to dissipate. When the tension of stress is gone, we breathe naturally.
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