A-B-C-D-i-aph-ragm

What movie buff can forget Alex Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross as an abusive sales trainer yelling at his subordinates: ABC – Always Be Closing.

A less abusive, but every bit as persistent instructor at my First Aid course (all massage therapists have to know First Aid), used the same acronym “ABC” teaching us the sequence of actions helping the injured. ABC – Airway, Breathing, Circulation. In an unconscious victim, first open the airway, then make sure he’s breathing, then check the blood circulation.

Note that all three of these requirements have to do with supplying the organs with oxygen and getting rid of any waste products. Breathing is vital for the survival, and it is done primarily by the Diaphragm - a large sheet-like muscle that internally separates the chest from the belly. As the Diaphragm contracts, it moves downward, creating the vacuum in the chest cavity and filling the lungs with air.

Some other muscles in the neck and the upper chest participate in the breathing process by lifting the upper part of the rib cage. In doing so, they contract up against gravity. This kind of breathing, called “paradoxical”, is not very efficient.

As a massage therapist, I always remind my clients to breathe with the Diaphragm. It is the main breathing muscle and the only one which contracts with gravity, not against it.

Other advantages of the diaphragmatic breathing are:

1. It activates the bottom 1/3 of the lungs, where most of the gas exchange takes place.

2. It reduces the tension and tightness in the neck, shoulders and upper chest muscles.

3. It sends the signal via the Vagus nerve to the Central Nervous System to activate the relaxation process.

4. Movements of the Diaphragm gently massage the abdominal organs and help with lymphatic drainage.

With so many good things coming from the Diaphragm, I always include it into the Full Body Massage routine as a part of the abdomen treatment. Come and see for yourself.


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