“For some reason, my lower back was giving me hell, and then I remembered the 3-D technique. I did that for a few minutes, and it’s really amazing how quickly it relieved my back pain.”
If your back pain is due to poor posture, freeing up the breath will automatically support better postural coordination in the torso. Breathing is a movement akin to an internal massage. Observing and expanding your breath will help the muscles of your belly, back, and chest loosen. Your spine will have room to expand.
If your back pain is due to ischemia, which is a lack of blood flow, deeper breathing will support the autonomic responses that increase blood flow to tissues.
If your back pain is caused by psychological or emotional triggers, slower, deeper breathing will circumvent stress reactivity, and help you get off the stress/pain feedback loop. By regulating the breath, you automatically regulate the physiological aspects of stress. Your heart rate will slow. Your blood pressure will drop. The flow of adrenaline will dial down, and within moments or minutes, the agitated mind catches on to the calmer physiology.
Although this video is in French, the images need no translation. It’s easy to see how breathing is a 3D body experience.
A student emailed me this morning to say, “I just wanted to let you know that the three-dimensional breathing technique you taught me saved my back yesterday.”
3-D breathing, adapted from Betsy Polatin’s wonderful new book, The Actors Secret, helps you experience optimal movement of the ribs and torso during breath.
Try 3-D breathing:
1. Front to back dimension: Place a hand on your belly and a hand on your low back. You will naturally feel your belly expand and deflate as you breathe. You can also feel more subtle movement in your low back. Visualize more of the breath movement happening in your back. This will help widen and relax the back muscles. Do you feel more movement in your back after visualizing?
Next, bring a hand on your sternum and a hand on your back near your shoulder blades. If your shoulders are too tight to easily reach your back, you can place a hand on a friend’s back to feel their breath movement. Yours will be similar. Remove your hands and sense your own breath movement. Did you know that most of your lung tissue is in the back of your body?
2. Side to side dimension: Place your hands as comfortably as you can on your side ribs. Feel the horizontal expansion of your ribs as you inhale. Feel the deflation of your ribs as you exhale. Stay for a few breaths. Remove your hands and sense your rib motion.
3. Bottom to top dimension: Place a hand above your collar bone on your uppermost rib (yes, there’s a rib above your collar bone!). Place a hand below your sit bone or at your perineum. Feel the rise of the upper ribs, and the fall of your pelvic floor as you inhale. As you exhale, you may feel the pelvic floor rise and the spine lengthen upwards. If you can’t sense anything at first, take a few big breaths as if you were at the doctor’s office. Once you get the feeling, breathe normally. Then remove your hands and sense the movement.
Which dimensions of breathing are familiar to you? Which do you use rarely?
Does the act of noticing your breathing automatically improve the quality? Is your breath smoother, deeper, or easier in any way?
In your day-to-day life, start by sensing one breath dimension at a time. Can you sense your breath while talking on the phone, eating, or texting?
Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.
Read all about Alexander Technique in our award-winning blog.
British Medical Journal report on the benefits of Alexander Technique