The Alexander Technique and Breathing
The way in which we use and coordinate our bodies affects our breathing. Excess tension or compression anywhere in the body can interfere with breathing. Anything that the head, neck and limbs do affects the movement of the ribs and the lowering of the diaphragm, processes that are essential to free and natural breathing. Misuse of the body such as pulling the head back and down into the spine (same as poking your chin forward), tensing the arms and shoulders, gripping the thighs into the pelvis, clenching the hands and feet, tightening the jaw, or tensing the tongue all contribute to constriction in the torso. Imagine trying to fill a balloon with air while simultaneously squeezing the balloon with your hands. You would be working against yourself. If you stopped squeezing the balloon, you' have a much easier time filling it with air. When we release habitual tension and compression, we stop working against ourselves and breathing becomes full and expansive without exerting extra effort. When people habitually pull down on themselves and generate compression in the ribcage, abdomen, and lower back, they usually end up sucking in air and raising the chest in order to force air into a constricted torso. The most effective solution to this problem is to undo the habits that interfere with optimal breathing as opposed to trying to control and improve the breathing directly. When breathing is occurring naturally, the ribs expand and the diaphragm drops down, creating a partial vacuum. Air rushes in to fill the space. If you don't interfere with your breathing in the ways described above, the breathing process will happen on its own with no conscious effort necessary.
Very young children usually sit and stand upright effortlessly without strain. Their natural, good posture and lack of compression down and into the torso, sets up an ideal situation for effortless breathing. The most comfortable and efficient way for a person to breathe isn't actually a new way at all. It’s likely the way that they breathed as an infant and toddler.