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I had no idea that I was holding my breath until I was shown that I was, sitting at a desk gives us ample opportunity to explore this for ourselves if we first know how to bring it to our attention. Business people who speak in public, those in the performing arts world, even yoga followers, all use their breath, and how we breathe plays an important part in our overall functioning and well-being.

Walter Carrington states “Because the fact of the matter is that with you or with me, if the mechanism is freed from interference, then of course just as the heart will beat freely, as the breathing or breath will flow unimpeded, as the digestion will work correctly, so the postural mechanism will work correctly, and the body will be poised and free and, of course, lengthening in stature. It has to lengthen in stature because that is, as we’ve said repeatedly, absolutely basic.” (Walter Carrington, “Lengthening in Stature”, March 30, 1983, “Thinking Aloud”, 1994). We can be doing all kinds of things when it comes to improving our health whilst still not paying attention to how we move, breathe & speak, becoming more aware of how our breathing functions is that fundamental.

Thinking of leading with our head and a free neck extending from out of the back and all the lengthening that this poise affords, accompanying muscle tone as a result of not contracting ourselves, lengthening or elongation of the spine releases the ribs so that they are able to expand. The lungs, shaped like a pair of fish plates, occupy most of the space in the thoracic cavity. The heart, a hollow, cone-shaped muscle, is located in front of the lungs and behind the sternum (breastbone) and the lungs extend from behind the second top rib, down to the lumbar. The trachea is also the tube that importantly connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs. The diaphragm goes down simultaneously with the ribs expanding outwards and upwards, then on the return, the diaphragm comes up, compressing the lungs from below, while the ribs come inwards and downwards, all of this bringing about increased internal space for our internal organs. This entire anatomical design is released to move by thinking the Alexander Technique directions of release, governed to a high degree by overall co-ordination and this in turn is enabled by lengthening in stature. Efficient breathing (expansion and contraction of ribs etc) will help digestion, and every other part of our system as it is all fed on oxygen. Jessica Wolf’s video “Art of Breathing” is useful to view in this regard.

In order to be breathing at our optimum throughout the entire mechanism, each area needs to function in conjunction with the other, all controlled for us by the respiratory centre in the brain….if we allow it! Most of us are interfering and preventing natural breathing. Nature designed the human mechanism to work efficiently and not to contract. We only need to bring about healthy co-ordination throughout, to release the ribs etc to enable the breathing process to function naturally. We need to stop the interference and this can be brought about by using the directions of the Alexander Technique.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan via

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