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Natural Awakenings Boston

Breathing for Healing

Aug 30, 2012 01:26PM ● By Joseph Brescia


Although breathing is essential to being alive, some breathing habits may function beneficially, while others may not. The quality of breathing affects a person’s energy, sleep and mood, among other things. Improving the quality of the breath can release tensions and help the body to heal itself. 

During diaphragmatic breathing, the respiratory diaphragm stretches down into the belly during an inhale and relaxes up under the ribs during an exhale. Thoracic breathing involves expanding the ribs and lifting the front of the body and chest. Clavicular breathing, at the top of the chest, lifts the clavicles and shoulders. In deep breathing, all three of these phases help to keep the musculo-skeletal body flexible.

As the diaphragm extends down into the belly, air glides into the lungs and oxygenates the body.

The abdominal organs and intestines are gently massaged in the process, increasing the movement of blood and bodily fluids and aiding digestion and elimination. Since the heart rests on top of the diaphragm, it rides along with the motion and is gently compressed and massaged by the lungs as they fill with air. This helps to move blood through the body with less effort.

Deep breathing may take some practice for those who are not used to doing it. Try thissimple deep breathing exercise while lying flat on the floor:

Placing one hand on the belly and the other on the middle of the chest, inhale gently through the nose and feel  the belly rise under the lower hand. Continuing with the same inhale, allow the air to fill the middle of the chest and lift the front of the ribs. Finally, let the air reach the top of the lungs, past the heart area and up to the clavicles and shoulders.

Next, exhale gently and effortlessly through the nose, allowing the breath to empty by relaxing the belly, the rib muscles, the mid-chest and the upper chest..

With each exhale, notice any tensions that can be released and let them go. Because some tensions may have been present for along time, you may need to revisit them, coaxing a little more release with each out breath.Be aware that,while some tensions stem from repetitive use or physical strain, some tensions are the result of emotional events. Accessing and releasing these tensions may bring up emotion that has been trapped there. Allowing these emotions to pass through without resistance can release them.

Overtime, try to increase the number of cycles, consisting of one full inhalation and complete exhalation. Be gentle, relax and enjoy the benefits of this deep, healing breath.

Joseph Brescia is a licensed massage therapist at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, located at 2285 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. To make an appointment, call 617- 354-3082 and visit for more information.