Anyone who chooses to take on a serious yoga practice will sooner or later come to the topic of breathing. This is especially true in the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition, which is a breath-led moving meditation.
The diaphragm's key function is respiration. We feel it working with every breath we take, even if we aren't really aware of it. What you actually feel as you breathe is your diaphragm contracting when you inhale and relaxing when you exhale. But the job of this dome-shaped tendinous muscle-plate in the center of your body goes way beyond that.
At first glance, it may seem surprising that there is more stabilizing our core than just back and abdominal muscles. However, looking at the diaphragm's location and function it becomes clear that without it's support, the muscles of the lumbar spine would not be able to lengthen with each breath, thus causing the lower back to lose it's curve.
The same goes for the thoracic spine. Here, without the support of the intercostal muscles (also key in respiration) our ability to maintain an upright position would be compromised.
Dynamic interplay to promote a healthy static state
Simultaneously dynamic and static? How does that even work? It's not a contradiction in terms. In fact, looking at the body from the outside one doesn't even see all of the muscular activity that is going on. The body appears to be statically maintaining it's upright posture. Inside, however, there is constant interaction between the muscles of respiration.
Just like good team players should, our respiratory muscles alternate with each inhalation and exhalation. In this way, it is possible for us to maintain this vital muscle activity for a long time without fatiguing the muscles completely.
Precisely this effect is one that you perhaps discover in your yoga practice but then recognize its importance in everyday life. Try this exercise out for yourself and experience the fascinating effects of this hidden 'super-muscle' in the center of your body!
We recommend this video because
Do you want to deepen your practice or provide your students with more breath awareness? Then this video is just right for you. As a Doctor of Sports Medicine, Ronald is a specialist in anatomical relationships and functions.
Here he explains in simple terms what happens in the body during respiration and how conscious breathing can be so conducive to your health. Discover how exciting of a process this almost unnoticed vital function truly is!
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