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Breathing to Improve Neck and Shoulder Tension

What if I were to tell you that you were breathing wrong… well not necessarily wrong (because if you are reading this you are still alive), but maybe inefficiently. Many of us have become reliant on utilizing accessory breathing muscles, rather than our primary ones. Most of these accessory muscles are found in our upper shoulders and neck, and when we overuse them, they become tight, leading to increased amounts of tension in the shoulders, neck and head.

How can you tell if you are breathing “wrong”?

Here is a simple test. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Now take a really deep breath in. Which hand moved more? If it was the hand on your chest, you are part of the breathing “wrong” group, the chest breathers.

There is a muscle deep underneath our rib cage called our diaphragm, which should be utilized during proper breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing). When you are correctly utilizing your diaphragm, it contracts down increasing the pressure into your abdomen, causing expansion. When the diaphragm is not being utilized there will be little to no expansion. By learning how to better utilize our diaphragm during breathing, we can often reduce the amounts of tension we hold in our neck and shoulders, leading to better posture, decreased soreness, and reduced number of headaches.

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