This Super Simple Breathing Drill Will Melt Stress & Reduce Neural Tone

By now you obviously know how important breathing is.  We wouldn't be here without it.

It's so natural that it seems crazy we have to teach people how to breathe, right?  But your clients--and even you--likely have so many years of accumulated tension that normal breathing is like a unicorn.  And too often the only cue we know is "take a deep breath".  Unfortunately that only adds stress to an overstimulated system (try it: your heartbeat speeds up on an inhalation...not ideal for relaxation).

There's a much more effective way to go about it.  In this post you'll learn a simple trick to reset dysfunctional breathing patterns, giving you a foolproof way to facilitate diaphragmatic breathing while also reducing tension in the psoas and neck.  Not bad for 5 minutes of work.

The video below will walk you through this process step-by-step, but in a nutshell here's what to do:

  • Start out lying supine on the ground with knees bent

  • Prop the head on a small support to normalize curvature of the cervical spine

  • Create passive tilt of the pelvis to allow release of the psoas

  • Bind above the knees if possible

  • Hang out, and breathe


We have quite a lot going on in such a simple process.  Let's break it down step-by-step so you're equipped to take it into the real world.

When we start out on the back, we add a huge amount of stability, which cues the nervous system that it can relax.  This helps us shed excess tension & compensatory holding patterns that we might see when sitting or standing.  After all the earth is our primary support when first learning how to move.  Getting back down there gives us the perfect context to restore normal function.

The support beneath the head comes from the work of somatic educator, F. M. Alexander.  Alexander was famous for his clear understanding that the head organizes movement of the rest of the body.  Control the head, and you control movement (this is still frequently taught in grappling schools).  By adding support, we can essentially give our client "postural training wheels" to help alleviate chronic holding patterns.  I don't love broad, sweeping statements, but you can bet that they have excess tension if they use a computer or smartphone.  

The prop beneath the pelvis is a unique modification to this position that actually facilitates pelvic tilt.  This allows a passive release of the psoas.  This tissue often suffers from accumulated tension spent by hours and hours in a chair.  And you know what the psoas is intimately tied up with?  The diaphragm (and just about everything else).  When it is allowed to release, we see a huge improvement in quality of breath.

The strap above the knees gives us further support.  Without it the tendency is to hold the legs upright with unnecessary tension.  Let the strap do the work of supporting, and you'll find a major release of tension from the hips.

Rather than stretch these soft tissues out, we can give them the necessary support they need to release all on their own.  We start to work with the nervous system, rather than against it.  And when you do that, you see massive progress in minimal time. 

Chandler StevensComment