Often I will awaken early in the morning, take my robe and a firm seed pillow, and move to the carpet in my office before the sun lights it up and before commuters’ cars set everything humming. I like to feel
This morning I notice my breathing – how my neck and throat open slightly when I inhale, and how my upper ribs follow this movement. At this shallow level of breathing, I do not have any sense of my diaphragm having to work to lift my lower ribs, but there is no movement at all in my abdomen – everything is thoracic. Even when I am running, when the diaphragm is working hard, there is no movement of air towards my abdomen. I wonder when my breathing became like
I know I was a terrible breather. I had been an asthmatic child and had attempted to work on diaphragmatic breathing in yoga and
During my training, I spent many hours swimming. Knee problems had ended my running and the Alexander Technique had ended my long-distance cycling – can’t have been great for breathing, hunching over as I did for hours, days on line. Swimming was a chance to move easily without stressing my knees, and was a great opportunity to apply the A.T. – opening my body into length, extending my arms upward and pulling them down against a strongly lengthening spine. I think that extending an arm overhead and gliding into it before pulling myself forward was an amazing opportunity to get the whole shoulder structure away from the neck and spine, allowing my ribs, especially the upper ribs, to follow my collarbone and scapula into length. You need to be able to allow your lungs to fill easily and quickly with air to accomplish a good free-style stroke with alternate side breathing. There is no place for any kind of abdominal breathing there, as the muscles you use to lengthen your torso keep the back and abdomen nicely firm and lengthened. The neutral condition for swimming is floating, allowing the back to lengthen and widen. This is not as strong a lengthening as standing stimulates, but it stimulates fewer habits of attempting to control balance. On the other hand, “unconsciously stimulated fear responses” are certainly something to deal with in water!
I have written a bit on breathing here ( Breathing and the Alexander Technique). I wrote this in support of Alexander’s advice to leave breathing alone to follow the primary control. Mine seems to have taken care of itself.