Carl Stough's Concepts of Breathing Coordination, Respiratory Faults, and Accessory Breathing Muscles
The Concepts of Breathing Coordination, Respiratory Faults, and Accessory Breathing Muscles
The blog discusses the importance of breathing coordination and balance for optimal health and performance. It covers various breathing methods, techniques, and exercises to improve breathing patterns, lung capacity, and overall well-being.
Carl Stough opened my eyes to the concept of breathing coordination.
Watching him work on people gave me deep insights related to what I learned to call the natural breathing reflex or Rosetta Stone of the breath. The breathing reflex must be felt, like chocolate must be tasted.
There should be a natural unobstructed wave from the knees to the top of the jaw. This action must be supported/allowed by a flexible spine. Movement techniques do well with the overall body coordination of balance and weight-bearing efficiency however, the breath is rarely addressed as a separate and unique component.
Neighboring accessory breathing muscles often get in the way of the breathing action when they should be supportive but still somewhat isolated. We use key insights around breathing coordination, balance sequencing, and integration in our work.
Some easily observed examples have mild to serious respiratory faults such as flared or sunken miss-shapen ribs, overly bent spines, and slightly or severely caved-in chests. The bottom of my sternum used to go noticeably inward and looked like a divot or sort of mid-chest “pothole” aka pectus excavatum.
Ribs that go in when one breathes in or go out when they exhale are also respiratory faults. Also, diaphragms that expand and contract front and back simultaneously (paradoxical). Polio victims would be one group that might have one or more, but anyone can have developed them or be born with them.
Most people I have met have accessory breathing muscle over-activation. Breathing muscles that support the primary breathing muscles but overreact and get in the way. Imagine 2-5 people trying to help you sign your name and how difficult it would be to coordinate all of them at the same time. Each person has a slightly or greatly different idea of what your signature should look and feel like.
This accessory breathing muscle activation is made more evident when the person takes a deep breath, and the collar bone and or shoulders rise and or the neck muscles bulge out. More extreme examples are emphysema, where sometimes almost the entire body is stiffening to gasp for air.
One way to detect this form of UDB is by the sound of the voice. The voice, after all, is nothing more than wind-passing membranes, bones, tendons, and muscles that create different qualities of vibration and sound. The voice becomes breathy, raspy, thin, hoarse, weak, or unsteady. A sure sign of breathing coordination development needs.
Try to make a steady, even, unwavering sound with your voice, and at the same time, move your belly in and out once every second as if you were transitioning between six months pregnant and a thin-waisted physical culturist with a small waist and huge chest. Most will experience a wavering of the sound. A key factor of the wavering is caused by the belly muscles getting in the way of the action of the diaphragm.
To breathe, sing, speak, walk, sleep, and sing more easily, we must disengage from the belly muscles. We must also coordinate the action so that the entire unit is properly supported and the relationships between the diaphragm, belly, chest, mouth, throat, and jaw are kept in steady but relaxed integration. There are pressures of the lying position that clearly support or suppress the ease of breathing.
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When the natural breathing pathway is restored or improved, there is almost always a corresponding depth and or ease of the sleeping state. The deeper the breath, the deeper the sleep. That’s probably why snoring and depth of sleep are often associated. The breath is deeper but not as coordinated as it could, or there are other issues mentioned concerning sleep.
Stuttering, laryngitis, emphysema, spasmodic dysphonia, heart conditions, nervous disorders, hypertension, and many other illnesses can be positively or negatively influenced by the way one breathes.
These patterns and sequencing are insights in the way breathing should look, feel, and function. There are different ways of addressing them taught in our school and in our home study programs. They consist of diaphragm function, rib & lung expansion, and muscular interrelationships and are in many ways governed by posture and attitude. They involve proper integration between the pelvic, belly, back, side, chest, throat, and jaw portions of the breathing cycle coupled with an interior perception of ease, flow, oneness/wholeness, and foundation. Vocal sound production quality is critical to proper assessment.
There should be a natural unobstructed wave from the bottom of the feet and belly to the top of the jaw and head. This action must be supported by the feet, legs, and hips; the body’s foundation, or lower support. Atrophy - loss of breathing controls - occurs through trauma or years of non-use or improper use. Sensory motor function - brain-body function taught by people like Thomas Hanna, creator of Somatics, Stanley Keleman, and Thomas Myers is compromised, and the inner somatic awareness of healthy breathing becomes lost along with a concurrent imbalance of the nervous system.
Then a repeated brain stem reflex response causes permanent contraction inviting or exacerbating improper postures and diaphragm deterioration resulting in breathing pattern disorders. If someone asks you to breathe correctly and shows you how, you often cannot do that as you have lost the inner sensing needed for that. Better breathing often needs to be gently forced into place by an expert facilitator.
A series of events and or breathing or physical or breathing exercises that utilize a repeated one of a kind affect will most often sustain a limitation in one's breathing, giving way to future respiratory inhibitions or distortions.
Breathing is rarely addressed as a separate and unique component. "Center stage" so to speak. X-rays do not show muscles or record sound. Bodywork can help a great deal but can not go deep enough to change the very deep muscles and undersides of accessory breathing muscles. Movement techniques do well with the overall body coordination of balance and weight-bearing efficiency but energy intolerance and or neighboring "accessory" muscles and bones get in the way of the breathing action when they should be more isolated.
Many people have or will develop mild to serious respiratory faults such as flared or sunken ribs, overly bent spines, or slightly or severely caved-in chests. The bottom of my sternum used to go noticeably inward (from being struck in the stomach and intimidated, causing me to bend forward during my youth and growing years) and looked like a divot or sort of thoracic “pothole”.
Ribs that go in when one breathes in or go out when they exhale should be considered respiratory faults. Diaphragms that expand on one side and contract to the other simultaneously (paradoxical) also serve to unbalance respiration.
Most people I have met have overactive accessory breathing muscles. Accessory breathing muscles are muscles that activate during an attempt at breathing deeper or even shallow breathing. Athletes get them a lot by gasping or breath-heaving. Others by habit, stuck emotions or trauma. A good example is raising the shoulders when taking a deep breath.
Extreme examples are emphysema where sometimes almost the entire body becomes a series of accessory breathing muscles with no isolation or separateness of muscular action.
Stiffen ALL the muscles in your body from head to toes. Now try to take a deep breath and you see a little of what it is like to try to breathe with emphysema. Sadly, we ALL are heading in that direction if we are not consciously doing something to prevent it. If you don't use it you will lose it.
One easy way to detect the UDB factors well hidden presence by the number count in Optimal Breathing Tests and the sound of the voice. The voice is essentially caused by wind, friction and vibration; wind passing membranes, bouncing off and or vibrating muscles, tendons, nerves and bones. Just as an office building would tilt or bend without a large enough basement, the voice needs a proper foundation to support its evenness and strength. Plus a platform to spring from when sound needs to be loud and clear.
These different qualities of vibration and sound produce strong, even, full, breathy, raspy, thin, hoarse, weak, unsteady largely due poor posture distorting the shape of the membranes and or a poor foundation.
Try to make a steady, even, unwavering sound with your voice and at the same time move your belly in and out once every second as if you were transitioning between six months pregnant and a thin wasted physical culturist with a small waist and huge chest. Most will experience a wavering of the sound. A key factor of the wavering is caused by the belly muscles getting in the way of the action of the diaphragm. To breathe, speak, walk, sleep, and sing more easily we must be able to engage and disengage from the belly and other non-specific breathing muscles. We must also coordinate the action so that the entire unit is properly supported and the relationships between the diaphragm, belly, chest, mouth, throat and jaw are kept in steady but relaxed integration. We expand upon all this in self help program or private sessions.
And when the natural breathing pathway is restored or improved there is almost always a corresponding depth and or ease of the sleeping state. The deeper the breath the deeper the sleep. That’s probably why snoring and depth of sleep are often associated. The breath is deeper but not as internally strong it should or there are other issues concerning sleep.
Stuttering, laryngitis, emphysema, spasmodic dysphonia, heart conditions, nervous disorders, hypertension, and many other illnesses can be positively or negatively influenced by the way one breathes. Again, if you are not consciously doing something to prevent the loss of breathing volume, strength and breathing sequencing, then even usual and customary activities will cause loss of breathing function and corresponding vitality. If you do not use it you will lose it. Excessive stress just accelerates the loss.
An example drawn from sessions with Spasmodic Dysphonia clients:
This is more of what I am getting at with your SD that it is largely a diaphragm and breathing sequencing and coordination issue that is caused by the breathing system of hips, pelvis, abdomen, thorax, diaphragm, internal organs, fascia, throat and jaw being squashed, bent, overtight and twisted in subtle ways that defy measurement but respond to unusual body positions that change the internal coordination back to where it works better......immediately. Subtle shifts in the voice are the primary indicators for this. They initially may not be discernible to the maker of the sound who has lost their connection with the sound of their natural voice But a before and after tape recordings can help them hear the vocal changes if they cannot do so themselves.
We must of course have already opened up (via Optimal Breath Releases -OBRs- and strapping techniques etc) the entire system to make the maximum change possible and ensure success. We then take the odd, sometimes threatening, invasive, distasteful (the prima donna pose, grotesque or foreign and possibly threatening body distortions etc) body positions and allow the breathing coordination to find it's own way by making sound concurrently with those "different" body positions. This happens often enough and the body reforms internally (unwinds) allowing the new way of sounding to become spontaneous while the ODD body position becomes less and less needed and we slowly revert back to healthy posturing.
So the internal coordination is changed by making sound whilst stretching and bending the outside of the body which is after all the container for the inside in the first place. Again, it unwinds from the inside out. The precise body positions are critical.
Relationship to the self is based on relationship to one's feelings and emotions. But it is best to have our emotions and not for our emotions to have us. There are not a lot of people that know how to work with this as the breath is a key factor. Some singing teachers can be very adept at this, others not. I got on the personal growth path and as a result spent three years taking singing lessons that didn’t teach me how to sing. Three hours to three weeks should be sufficient for many. Don’t get lost in the well meant but often confusing mistakes of people telling you to do things that don’t feel right or do not get immediate results.
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