A flexible breath

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“Your back is the other half of your respiratory muscles.”

 ~ Donna Farhi

Great news!

Back breathing is a little gem of a relaxation and healing ritual. Coaxing your inhale downwards, flowing along your spine as it moves outwards, soaking into your  shoulder blades, kidneys, middle and lower back ribs – creating nothing short of therapeutic magic.

It’s an excellent tonic for a whole body rejuvenation experience. You’ll even notice your posture adjust organically after a few rounds of deliberate back breathing. Brilliant!

For the record, back breathing calms the nervous system, deepens the breath, soothes the mind and invites more oxygen into your body. Fabulous for taking the edge off excessive worry/stress. Great for releasing fear (kidneys are associated with holding fear). It’s even therapeutic in times of shock.

Bravo back breathing!  You’re an all round good guy! And the very reason you are a nourishing daily ritual at all my Slow Yoga Relaxation Retreats.

Alas, many of us do not regularly breath into our backs (myself included). Oh, dear!  Our inhales become restricted, reflecting the pressures of life, limiting our breathing to the front of the body or upper chest only. Daily stresses, lack of movement, poor posture and excessive sitting can all contribute to a withering half-lung breath.

As I repeat over and over again at my retreats, use your  breath as medicine …. to invite more softness and spaciousness into the body.

Your awareness coupled with the breath is an incredibly powerful therapeutic tool. 

Gently invite and then encourage your next inhalation to flow into your back.  It’s as simple as that. Breath by breath, inhale by inhale, back stiffness and tensions will dissolve.  Soon you’ll get a real sense of your breath moving deeper and deeper into your back ribs and lower back.  It’s a beautiful thing when it happens.

Practice back breathing

If you’re unsure you are breathing into your back, here are a couple of simple practices that you may find helpful. Fingers crossed.

Give yourself a hug.  Wrap your arms around your waist, feel your lower side ribs with the palms of your hands.

Inhale. Can you feel the sides of your ribs move into your hands?

Also try this …

Place the palms of your hands over your kidneys. They’re near the waist towards your back. You’ll look  like you’re sitting or standing with your hands just slightly above your waist. Thumbs pointing forwards towards your hips and fingers stretching towards the spine as the palms of your hands cup slightly above the waist.

Relax your shoulders, lengthen your spine and breathe into your hands and kidneys if you can. Did you feel any movement  in your lower back ribs?

Don’t worry if you didn’t. It’s not uncommon.

Fake it until you make it. Practice.

Keep your awareness on your back and imagine in your mind’s eye breathing fully and deeply into your back ribs. Pretend. With patience, over time, you’ll soon be able to sense more and more movement of the breath flowing into your back.

Loosen your spine for a flexible breath


A helpful solution towards experiencing back breathing more intimately is to loosen your spine. Flex it a little like a cat (as pictured). It loosens up your spine, encouraging the flow of  fluid from the sacrum to cranium.

How to flex your spine

Hands under shoulders. Knees under hips.

Inhale, lift your head, rolling your shoulders back and dip your lower back, rolling the buttocks upwards. Exhale, turn your head towards the navel and arch your back as you empty your lungs and draw the navel to the spine.

I love this simple, nurturing posture in my morning rituals.  Awesome for spine flexibility and calming the nervous system.


This post was originally published on Carole’s blog http://thehealthylivinglounge.com and appears on Midlifexpress with her kind permission.

Author: Carole Fogarty
Carole Fogarty runs retreats and you can read her blog at: http://thehealthyliviinglounge.com

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