They say that in yoga, the poses are just there to distract you while you learn to breathe. ;-) It's true. Sure, we get our oxygen alright. But few of us are getting the full, lush breaths that our bodies thrive on - the breaths we all once had.
So where did we go wrong? Watch a baby sleeping. Watch his little belly go up & down. Now look down at your own breath; do you see your chest rise first? Belly a little, or not at all? Somewhere around junior high, we discovered boys (or girls), and taught ourselves to "suck in our gut", leaving the chest to do the breathwork alone. Then we got stressful jobs, and learned the shallow, quick breathing that goes along with it. Over the years, our breathing muscles became tight, and forgot how they used to move so freely.
So what can we do about it? The most profound change occurs when the muscles are released first, and then retaught. Muscles such as the abdominals and intercostals, the diaphragm, and muscles that affect the ribcage and shoulder blades all play a part. This is powerful work that can be performed by a qualified massage therapist. In my practice, after releasing these muscles, I like to follow-up with a little "Breathing 101", where clients learn to use their diaphragm, expand the belly first, then fill the ribcage...to focus on the quality of the exhale over the inhale. People are always amazed at how good it feels.
And what are the benefits of this newfound breath? Reduced stress and anxiety, improved athletic performance, quicker recoveries due to increased oxygen capacity. And like my clients say "It Feels Good to Feel Good!!"