It is my experience that almost everyone thinks they are standing up straight when in fact they are leaning backwards. Another thing that I have noticed is that most people, some yogis aside, don’t think very much about the way they breathe. Changing the way you breathe if your patterns need changing can have far-reaching effects— physical and emotional & physiological.
When it comes to breathing and posture, good breathing patterns go hand in hand with good posture and conversely it is almost impossible to have good breathing patterns with bad posture. Any and all postural imbalances will ultimately affect the body’s ability to breathe optimally.
Looking at two postural patterns that I think everyone shares— a rib cage that is elevated at the front and the tucked pelvis, we’ll see that both of these alignment miscues affect our ability to breathe in a full and easy manner.
Ideally the diaphragm muscle (abdominal diaphragm) descends when we inhale and ascends when we exhale. When the diaphragm descends it reduces the space in the abdominal cavity pushing the belly out. All sorts of good things happen when the diaphragm drops (another post) The diaphragm is the main muscle of breathing getting an assist in different circumstances from a number of trunk muscles—but the diaphragm is meant to be the driver of the breath.
The diaphragm muscle is suspended at the base of the rib cage like a parachute. The pelvic floor muscles (pelvic diaphragm) form a similar parachute in the middle of the pelvis. These two diaphragms need to be parallel because they are synergists and the breath can only function at peak capacity if they are level to each other and the earth when we are standing. If the pelvis is tucked under, and I think everyone tucks their pelvis, it is impossible to bring the diaphragm and the pelvic level with each other.
If you lean backwards when you stand up—take some pictures of yourself to find out—you can’t access your fullest and deepest breath because a poorly aligned spine interrupts the descent of the diaphragm. Exploring the connection between breathing and posture, and the pelvic floor and the diaphragm, is worth the effort. Successful breathing patterns make for a healthier life.