Lung Health Practices

The practices presented below are deeply rooted in the field of Somatics and draw from T'ai Chi, Qigong, Yoga and Pilates modalities.

These practices help to increase lung filling capacity, and better aerate all areas of the lungs.  They also improve the reflexive coordination needed for efficient breathing. These practices are simple, non-efforted, always comfortable, and to be used gently, slowly, in short sessions, with moderation and common sense.

Breathing into All Areas of Your Lungs

We tend to be habituated to preferentially fill one lung, or lung lobe(s), or certain areas of our lungs.  Air still goes into the other areas, but not quite as easily.

  • Take a moment and feel into where the air of our breath is, or is not, filling our lung spaces.

  • Notice that pattern.

  • Then, without effort, ... just attention, invite the air to enter the less habituated areas.

  • Let this gradually happen.

Shift and Change Positions
  • Keeps the alveoli lung sacs more evenly inflated.
  • Keeps the heart from pressing in the same place.
  • Keeps the blood flow more evenly fluid, and it lessens blood pooling.
  • The belly contents can adjust for the moving diaphragm.

Pursed Lip Breathing

  • Let your lungs fully fill.

  • Let the air stretch into every space of your lungs.

  • Then press/purse you lips together, and let the air slowly escape.

  • Imagine that you are pressing the air out through a small straw.

  • Maintain the pressure, repeat a few times.

Circular Breathing Practices

  • There are many variations of this practice. This is the simplest and most direct one I know.

  • This practice uses your somatic imagination.  It is not that physiologically your breath is moving this way.  It is likely that your breath is inviting your Qi to move this way, but we don't have a way to "know" this.  However it is very easy to "experience".

  • In one practice, our inhale is lifting up through the back, circulating thru the crown, and with the exhale descending into our deep pelvis to circulate up the back again with our inhale.  This has an inspiring, lifting feeling to our spine and a grounding, centering feeling to our exhale.

  • In another practice, our nurturing inhale is lifting our chest and heart, circulating through our crown to descend our back with the exhale, allowing for alignment with the center of the Earth.

  • These practices improve our full breathing ability, but mostly they improve the circulation of Qi that nourishes the entire body.

Pleural Dome Circles

The Pleural Dome is the area of the body just under the collar bones and shoulder blades. From this area, and the upper ribs and back, is a tented dome of facia that provides the structure for the suspensory ligaments of the lungs and heart, and blood vessels, to anchor from.

  • This practice is subtle.  So any movement you feel is good.  Small "imaginary" movements are "real".

  • You can either do this by using your neck to "stir the cauldron" of your chest.  That is, the head and neck to be more rigid,  helping move the upper chest.

  • Or you can do this by visualizing a "yoke" made by your collar bones and shoulder blades and you are using circles to shuffle that yoke around a bit.

  • Again, go for the small opening movements.

  • Feel for the air coming and going.

Diaphragm Circles

This practice helps to mobilize the lower rib cage, the breathing diaphragm, as well as the lower lung lobes.

  • Keep your shoulders and hips relatively fixed and move your lower ribs around in a circle.

  • The plane of the circle is parallel to the ground.

  • You can put your hands on your lower ribs to better feel how you are moving.

  • Feel for how your air exchange is different in different areas of the circle.

  • Allow yourself to move into the areas that are more rigid.

  • Try the other direction.

Upper Chest and Lung Opening

This is an supportive way to ease into more movement for your upper chest and lungs.  It should be comfortable and pain-free, though if you have shoulder trouble this can be challenging.

  • Find a rope or strap/cloth.  I like to tie a knot in the middle because it feels more anchored.

  • Lift your arms allowing your hands to rest on the inside of the loop.  This brings good relief to the effort of the arms.

  • Feel how raising your arms overhead lifts your chest and improves air flow into your upper lung fields.

  • Simply rest on the rope, and lean to the sides letting everything open.

Percuss the Back and Lungs
  • Tie a big knot at each end of a rope (a few feet long).
  • Hold one knot and fling the other.
  • Fling it back to tap a good spot at the chest.
  • The arm movements are helpful, as well as the chest opening and back arching.
  • The tap feels good.
  • You can also use a juggling club.
  • The percussion helps break up areas of consolidation.

Mobilizing the Upper Chest and Lungs

In case of any challenge with breathing, taking a leaned forward position, or in this case a "table top" position which will ease the effort of breathing.

  • In this position you can lift and lower your mid--back so that it arches each way (cat/cow in yoga)

  • However, this practice is a little different in that we are focusing more on the upper chest.

  • Arch your upper chest towards and away from the floor.

  • Feel for a stretching of your windpipe.

  • Relax back to neutral mid-position.

  • Feel for air movement as you do this.

Stretch the Trachea
  • Lay flat on your back, knees bent.  
  • Let your head rest on the floor.  
  • Press your elbows into the ground, stretching your upper chest, lungs and trachea - longer, open.  
  • Feel the air come in.
  • This can be a little hard to feel, but practice a bit, it will come.

"Sounding" into the Lung fields and/or Throat

This practice comes from various different meditation and singing practices. But applied here, it is basically using the power of mechanical vibration to help break-up areas of consolidation or thickened fibrous tissue, and to promote fluid flow.

  • The "Ah" sound puts the mouth in a position that opens up the upper sound chambers the most - but you can use any vowel that you prefer.

  • The frequency of the sound is also your preference - but feel for how changes in pitch gives varied vibrational effect.

  • Use your mind to direct the sound to different areas you feel restriction.

Hyperventilate Occasionally​
  • Even if you cannot fully exercise because of health conditions, try to go ahead and fully fill and empty your lungs repetitively for a bit.
  • Use the heavy breathing to expand and contract your rib cage, keeping all that moveable.
  • It a good way to help make sure you are using all your lung capacity.

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JAYMI DEVANS  

 jaymi@mountainhands.com