In part 1 we looked at the basic mechanics of breathing how it is protected, anchored. And the effects bad breathing can have on the neck and shoulders. This week we look at how the diaphragm creates a ripple effect within the body and how bad breathing can effect the pelvic floor.
The Ripple Effect
Anything done with energy and purpose has a ripple effect. The diaphragm is no different.
Motion. It's a sigh of life. Everything within this Universe is in motion. We need to move. When tissue looses its normal motion, it becomes inflamed. We have two kinds of movement within the body. Mobility, which is caused by the push and pull of the surrounding organs. And motility, which is the movement of the organs themselves.
As the diaphragm moves up and down it, the mobility it creates, causes a whole industry of activity that moves, drains and soothes the surrounding organs.
Unlike the vascular system which has the heart pumping blood around our bodies, our lymphatic system has no pump. This is one of the reasons exercise is so important for us. Muscles expand and contract as we use them to help the system drain.
But it's the diaphragm that really helps drain it. Every time you take a proper deep breath, it expands, creating a pressure and pressing on the surrounding nodes and the Thoracic Duct that runs up through the trunk. Forcing it to flush and keep moving. Like a clothes ringer, your diaphragm is helping to drain the system of toxins and promote a healthy immune system.
While doing this, it is also draining the fluid from the Peritoneal Cavity (see image), which returns to the vascular system. This is one of the largest fluid-filled cavity's in the body. It secretes about 50ml of fluid per day. This fluid acts as a lubricant with anti-inflammatory properties. Who doesn't need that! Another reason to drink more water.
Our visceral organs also need to move. The diaphragm moving or the heart beating are part of these external forces. It creates glide and slide. Our organs need and love to move. Breathing deeply creates this. It calms the organs and muscles attached to the ribs. Have you ever experienced a rapid heart beat? Did you know that the heart actually sits centre over the diaphragm? If you ever experience this, try slowing and deepening your breath.
It has a direct effect on the heart. It calms it. Slows it down. The diaphragm calms the heart - and all that surrounds it.
Here's a challenge for you. Breathing out without your diaphragm is easy - but try breathing in without it...
Here's something to think about: You're under pressure - because you lack pressure.
Just like your boiler system or an engine room, pressure within the human system is really important.
We are used to talking about blood pressure, but it doesn't end there. There are different pressures within different organs that allow them to work at max capacity.
For example, we breath in about 80% N2 and 20% O2. We breath out 80% N2, 16% 02 and 4% CO2. This happens instantaneously. Needing the right pressure to help it happen.
The diaphragm is probably the only muscle that moves between the upper and lower extremities of the torso. I kind of see it like an old fashioned bellows for lighting a fire. In doing this, it creates a pressure within our bodies. This pressure is really important, not just for the lungs, but for the pelvis as well. The diaphragm and pelvic floor have a direct pressure relationship.
When the diaphragm descends, the pelvic floor lowers and lengthens. When the diaphragm rises, the pelvic floor rises with it.
As the base for our 'core muscles'. The pelvic floor works with the deep belly (abdominal) muscles, back muscles and the diaphragm. They support our spine and control the pressure inside your belly.
The lower Extremities
Just as we discussed in part 1, the smaller muscles can play large roles if forced to, but they get tired and need to rest. The pelvic floor is no different. These muscles are working hard all day to create stability and hold in urine. When you breath fully with your diaphragm you are creating little rest-bites through the lengthening of the pelvic floor. This ensures that the muscle is relaxed, flexible and able to work all day, everyday.
We don't always notice this pressure until we need to do something such as go to the toilet, give birth or - exercise! For example, lifting weights. The internal pressure increases when you lift something heavy and then returns to normal when you put the weight down.
You're thinking of when you did your back in lifting that heavy box, aren't you?
This is because when you lift something heavy, the core muscles work together to support the spine. The abdominal and back muscles pull in and the pelvic floor lifts in an appropriate response to the increased abdominal pressure.
If any of the core muscles are weak or damaged, they begin working out of sic. So, when there is an increase in pressure due to exercise, the lower back can become over-loaded - most people are familiar with that. The pelvic floor can also become over loaded. Causing it to depress instead of lifting. Over time this can lead to bladder problems or pelvic organ prolapse.
Breathing Easily: The pelvic floor is lifted, the deeper abdominal muscles are pulled inwards and our breathing continues as normal.
Holding Breath: The belly button pulls in towards the spine, causing pressure to bear downwards on the pelvic floor.
A lot of people think holding their core is what you need to do to prevent injury and support their backs. This is wrong. It just tightens it. Your muscles need to be strong and flexible. They need to activate and de-activate as needed. And you should be able to breath in a deep, calm and relaxed way throughout all of this.
If you have a pelvic or posture problem - you probably - most likely have a diaphragm problem. Or visa versa. How things start depends on our history.
In fact, they say that if you have discomfort or pain above your legs and below your belly button - you have pelvic pain. And that could be originating from from a digestive or urinary, hormonal or reproductive disorder. Sometimes they show just themselves up as muscle pain.
And sometimes, these issues can be helped with physical manipulation. Like muscle and bones, all organs have tendons and are engulfed within fascia. Again, depending on your history, how your use your diaphragm. What you have experienced in life. Injuries, trama, stress, or what you inherit. However it starts. Sometimes, this is a tissue issue.
Always talk to a doctor though. A Soft Tissue or massage therapist are not qualified to give a diagnoses like a doctor. Always do your homework. And that means being open to looking at all options. Ask questions.
In the next blog, we will look at what happens when we don't breath correctly.