The Asymmetry of Breathing: The Story Behind Our Restorative Breath & Movement Group Class
“Symmetry” is a mind construct that perhaps provides a sense of stability regardless of the contrasting unpredictable, asymmetrical physical reality we experience within and being of Nature. We have two lungs. But does that mean they are symmetrical? Absolutely not. In general, our right lung is larger and has three lobes, whereas our left lung is smaller with two lobes. The left lung makes room for the heart where it sits upon the cardiac notch (which perhaps makes the heart the “honorary” third lobe of the left lung). The diaphragm muscle is the primary inspiratory muscle of the body. When we inhale, it contracts and “flattens out”, pushing our abdominal organs downward, and the surrounding rib cage outwards in a 360 degree direction; and when it relaxes as we exhale, the diaphragm ascends into a “balloon”, or dome shape, as the surrounding rib cage moves inwardly. In synchrony with this diaphragmatic breathing action is movement of the pelvic floor muscles. In general, with respiration, as the diaphragm descends with inhalation, so does the pelvic floor muscles; and vice-versa with the corresponding exhalation, the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles ascend.
And yet the theme of asymmetry continues when you consider the anatomy of the diaphragm muscle and the biases of the pelvic orientation and relative positioning. In general, the right diaphragm has a larger attachment onto the lumbar spine as compared to the left. Along with this is the larger right lung and the very large organ, the liver, which tends to be biased towards the right side of the abdominal cavity, there’s not much to guess where more potential stability would be located when comparing between the right and left side of the body.
“Where Am I Going With This?"
Greater than 70% to 95% of the world population is right-handed. No one knows exactly why but we can only guess it may be due to these common asymmetries. The human nervous system biases towards strength and stability, and strays away from weakness and instability; perhaps this is a survival patterning hard-wired into us to keep our species going. The tendency, in general, is that we are “pre-set” to be more stable on our right side and less so on our left as if we were “freeze-framed” standing on our right foot while our left foot is swinging forward. This would create a bias towards compression of the right side of the thorax (and thus lower air volume within the right lung) and expansion of the left side (with a greater volume of air within the left lung). In other words, “deflated” right lung/”hyperinflated” left lung.
“Stay With Me……”
Back in 2010, my Father passed away from “Left Lung Cancer”. This was strange to my family and I considering the man never smoked in his life, nor did he work in an environment that promoted such a diagnosis. His doctors just left it as “genetics” as the probable cause. If you consider the above tendencies of the left lung being “hyperinflated”, than perhaps there is a possibility that a hyperinflated left lung means less air is able to leave it; and consider the fact that the lungs, in general, have a detoxification role, that over time, maybe an accumulation of toxicities within the left lung may be a possible explanation for cancer to thrive within my Father’s left lung.
I don’t know.
But I’ve been studying, appreciating, and in complete awe of this “thing” we call our body and its incredible capacity to move us forward in Life. And I have, time and time again, observed the consistency of asymmetry of the Human Body and its movement and the effect of manipulating its structure AND function on the Human Experience. It is important for me to note: I am not saying that we are all going to get left lung cancer! No. I am exposing the possibility that the natural asymmetry we possess can be manipulated to effect our structure and function as we move through Life. We can slow down our breath and stimulate aspects of our physiology to facilitate rest and recovery as well as speed it up into improved resiliency into “fighting or flighting”. We can change the shape of our lungs simply by positioning ourselves and forcing our organs to adapt to the new circumstance. For example, in the picture you will see me lying on my left side with my left knee up towards my chest, compressing the “hyperinflated” left lung; meanwhile, my right chest wall, and thus right lung, is in a more expanded position to address its tendency to be “deflated”.
The above is a brief introduction to what our “Restorative Breath & Movement Class” at Jocson Physical Therapy & Training addresses. Another aspect the class addresses is the ever popular effect of “stress” in our lives, and how that may create excessive amounts of “tone” (“hypertonicity”) within our neuromusculo-skeletal system, which promotes a structure for more shallow breathing, “mouth-breathing”, and “iron lung” compressive postural patterning. In the days before modern ventilators, the iron lung placed most of one’s body within a chamber that did the breathing for the patient by mechanically varying the air pressure inside of it. Pressure within the chamber would cause increased compression forcing air out of the body, followed by a suctioning of air pressure out of the chamber to cause the patient to breathe in. Think of it as an artificial mechanical way to force breathing. When we are overly stressed, the tendency is to hyperventilate, or over-breathe. This typically leads to increased areas of compression around the body and affects our capacity to breathe overall. Not quite exactly like an iron lung, but similar in that the more superficial musculature of the body reacts in a manner to facilitate its reaction to the higher levels of perceived stress. In other words, we tend to get so stressed, we forget how to breathe in a more relaxed state. Our class may help to restore this capacity.
As of now, we are offering the Restorative Breath & Movement Class on Saturday mornings at 7:30am. Please check out our Latest Updates page for the most up to date class scheduling. Or you can also sign up for a class here
Outdoor Group Class Rates (all classes are weather permitting; if it rains, class will be rescheduled)
First Class Ever $10.00
Single Class $25.00
Five (5) Classes $100.00 ($25 savings)
Ten (10) Classes $180.00 ($70 savings)