BREATHING, in some from or other, is essential to all forms of life; yet how many people ever take any thought as to how they should breathe ? What constitutes correct breathing ? Obviously, making full use of the breathing apparatus with Nature has endowed the individual.
The lungs receive the inhaled air, which, after a most exciting and romantic career, in which it conveys some of the essential life element to every cell of the body, return, worn out and weary, laden with impurities, to be expelled from the body by the same organs–the lungs.
The thorax is greatly occupied by the lungs, which with the heart, other important organs, and connective tissue which acts as packing material, completely fill it. There are no loose fittings in a perfect body. Therefore it follows, that as the lungs expand, to accommodate the indrawn air and contact in the act of expelling it, the thorax must flexible too. This flexibility is produced by the joints of the bony structure, cartilaginous material and a large number of muscles, including that massive organs known as the diaphragm which from the floor of the chest and the roof of the abdomen.
The lungs, then, constitute the receiving and distributing organs of fresh, vital air; and the receiving and expiratory organs of stale devitalized sir, for the whole body.
Our business lies in (1) making full use of our breathing organs in a natural way, and (2) providing them with properly conditioned air in sufficient quantities; if we attend to the “breathing in” part of the function, I think the healthy body will itself look after the other part, “breathing out”, without our conscious effort.
In passing, let me warn you against the danger of attempting to hold the breath, this is a very different matter to controlling it which means letting it out slowly and evenly, i.e. in a controlled manner. Holding the breath may lead to a very distressing condition know as Emphysema, i.e. a chronic distension of the tiny air tubs of the lungs, in which it is impossible to empty them of air and therefore impossible to aerate them thoroughly.
Now as to the conscious muscle work of breathing; ordinary breathing should be so easy and natural that we are not conscious of any effort at al, but for the more determined endeavour, should the abdominal muscles be brought into action ? I think not. Certainly not when dealing with a healthy chest. For the moment we will leave the discussion of the methods of dealing with the lungs which, through pathological changes, and probably through mismanagement, have become sub-normal.
My work has given me the opportunity of testing the breathing capacity of a good many people, adults, and lots of children. This I do very simply; I just get them to lie,or stand, in an easy but position, place my hands on their lower ribs at either side, and ask them to take a deep breath, at the same time trying to push my hands away with their ribs.
I frequently find that the extension of the l;lower part of the chest is very slight until the patient has been taught how to breathe, and practised deep breathing. Some people seem to find it difficult even after months of effort on my part to make them accomplish it.
It is a matter of determination and mental concentration on the part of the patient. Sometimes it seems necessary to disabuse the patients mind; to assure him that the exercise is not too heavy for him, and to point out the great disadvantages he will be up against should he develop any serious chest disorder if he has not fully developed his breathing powers.
This is practically all I do in the way of breathing exercises, i.e. breath in through the nose, expanding the lower ribs, breathe out through the mouth–contacting the lower ribs as far as possible.
Of course we ring the changes; the exercise is done standing, lying down , sitting in various postures and it is preceded by some other exercise which is calculated to make the patient a bit breathless, wood chopping, whip jumping, etc.
By this method he seems to accomplish all that the healthy chest requires in the way of developing the breathing capacity without differentiating between “Shoulder breathing,” “Costal breathing,” and “Abdominal breathing” which I regard as straying from the natural way, complicated and not to be tolerated.
We have been considering a chest which has not fully developed its power of breathing, but which, otherwise, is healthy and normal. Some modifications may arise when we have to deal with the breathing apparatus of sick folk. In the case of a patient suffering from Chronic Asthma, for instance, the conditions of the chest are considerably altered.