Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Winter Wellness: Belly Breathe and Chest-Openers!

During the winter months and it seems especially this year, a lot of people are suffering with a niggling cough and so it’s a really great idea to work on keeping your chest open so that your lungs can work as well as possible to help keep them healthy.

Here are a few simple stretches and exercises that you can do to help release tension around your shoulders and upper back and create space in your chest area.

Breathing Exercise:

Place one hand on the top of your chest and the other high on your abdomen. As you take  deep breath inwards you want the hand on your abdomen to move and not the hand on your chest. This breathing exercise helps you to use your diaphragm more when breathing and takes air deep into the bottom of your lungs. Increasing the use of your diaphragm decreases the use of the muscles around the upper chest and so reduces tension in the shoulders.

Pectoralis Stretch:

This stretch helps to open up the chest and so allows your ability to breath deeply to improve. The pectoral muscles (or pecs), are the large muscles of the chest which we would associate with doing press-ups.

An easy way to stretch this muscle is with the help of a door frame - you want to place your elbow against the door frame so it is level with your shoulder (pic below) - then take a step forward with the leg which is closest to the wall and as your body moves forward you should feel the stretch in the chest, if you feel the stretch more in your arm than your chest you may be twisting your body to compensate for the step forward so make sure as you step forward you keep your torso straight. If you can still feel more of a stretch in the arm rather than the chest you can move closer to the door-frame.

The picture below shows how to stretch the smaller pectoral muscle which is underneath the larger one - this is the Pectoralis Minor, to stretch it you need to lift your elbow slightly higher than your shoulder and then repeat the stretch as before. 
Note: If you feel a stretch in the Pectoralis as soon as you place your arm against the door frame then you don't need to take the step forward, just feel the stretch at the start point, as the muscle loosens you will be able to stretch further.

Happy belly breathing and chest-opening! Need a little more winter care you can book in with Hazel or any of the Octagon team here.