Riaz Fredericks


Breathing exercises for stopping lower back pain!

Don't Forget To Breath!!

 Breathing is by far our most powerful wellness tool.

Breathing is by far our most powerful wellness tool.

When it come to health and wellness breathing is our most powerful, yet under utilized tool. Those who have mastered proper breathing techniques tend to look younger, live more vibrant lifestyles, are confident and tend to have a deeper sense of calmness. While proper breathing techniques are often associated yoga, pilates, tai chi or martial arts, everyone can benefit from learning how to breathe properly. After suffering with lower back pain for most of my life and having to undergo surgery on my spine, I finally learned that the greatest weapon I had to combat lower back pain was controlling my breath, so that I could reestablish more beneficial breathing pattern. Focusing on core abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing can alleviate lower back pain, strengthen the core system and create an overall feeling of well-being. And you can practice proper breathing all day – no gym membership required!

Diaphragmatic breathing!

Our natural breathing pattern is diaphragmatic breathing, which occurs deep in your abdomen rather than in your chest. The muscles you use for diaphragmatic breathing are the same muscles used for our core stabilizing system. Those muscles include the diaphragm itself and, most importantly, the transverse abdominis that maintains pelvic-lumbar alignment, while also supporting the upper torso and spinal system.

Chest breathing!

While diaphragmatic breathing represents normal breathing patterns, chest breathing has become more of the norm and our core systems have suffered for it. From an evolutionary standpoint chest breathing was necessary when faced with a frightening or stressful situation. In those situations, the body’s fight or flight response kicks in – our breath gets faster and shorter and our brains release large amounts of adrenalin and cortisol which is pumped into our muscles giving them the ability to meet whatever physical challenge that's in front of them.

Sedentary Lifestyles Are The Problem...

That was all well and good when ancient man had to run from a lion but with our modern sedentary lifestyle, we usually experience fear in the form of stress while in a seated position. Our brains still release all the hormones necessary for the fight of flight response, but instead of being able to run or fight, we are trapped is a chair sitting down. To make matters worse, from a core stability standpoint, you are not using your primary core stabilizing muscles when you are sitting down so the core is constantly being neglected.

Fight Or Flight Response To Stress!

As we continue to face a more stressful world and we face more situations that illicit a fight or flight response in a sedentary position, chest breathing becomes the norm and the core gets weaker and weaker. A sedentary lifestyle plus consistent chest breathing means that our core systems are no longer providing the stability and support for the upper torso and spinal system and is not maintaining the pelvic-lumbar alignment like it once did. This causes a collapse of the spinal system - nerves get pinched as the disc’s compress and decay. Eventually degenerative disc disease sets in and chronic lower back pain becomes a fact of life.

Emotional and Psychological Effects!

Long-term chest breathing also has emotional and psychological effects. When you breathe from your chest less oxygen is able to oxygenate your blood. You are more likely to suffer with anxiety, be short tempered, feel stressed, have bad sleeping patterns, resulting is chronic fatigue which results in being over caffeinated and dehydrated. Add to that lower back pain, which a whopping 8 in 10 Americans suffer with, and you have a recipe for a truly unhappy life.

Reversed and Corrected.

Luckily its not all doom and gloom, the negative effects of long-term chest breathing can be reversed and corrected. While proper breathing alone won’t reverse a lifetime sitting behind a desk, it will take you a long way to your goal. Core or diaphragmatic breathing is simple and natural and you can do it anywhere at any time.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises.

There are a number of different diaphragmatic breathing exercises, but I think the best one to start practicing is the abdominal hollowing technique that is commonly taught and practiced in pilates classes. This exercise is great for strengthening the transverse abdominis which is foundational to establishing both a strong functioning core system and a normal diaphragmatic breathing pattern.
Your Controlled Breathing Challenge.

Your Controlled Breathing Challenge.

To practice this exercise, simply draw your navel in towards your spine (in non-pilates speak - suck in your gut). Maintain this engaged abdominal position as you continue to breath slowly and deeply through your nose. Ideally we would breathe this way all day everyday, but it takes a great deal of concentration, which is why it is often referred to as mindful breathing or conscious meditation. Start by breathing this way for 5 to 10 minutes every day for a week, then try to build up to longer periods each day. You don’t need to be sitting in a quiet mediation room or anything so formal - sit at your desk for a few minutes before or after your lunch and practice, or try it before bedtime instead of watching tv. In no time at all you will feel your lumbar spine and core muscles strengthening and you will begin to look forward to your practice. This is the same method of controlled breathing I teach my students while they practice my Bula Method. Your goal should be to practice this technique all day everyday as your concentration develops along with your self-wareness.

Take the challenge and practice for a week then a month, come back and leave a comment on your findings!!