Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Inside your body there is a dance happening with every breath. As we inhale we expand and as we exhale we retract. It’s easy to think of movement as big sweeping impressive moves with our body through space but without a deep natural breath our movement is restricted before we even start.
The diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle and when it is fully utilized it initiates a lot of movement in the body. On the inhale the diaphragm draws down which expands the belly outward. Check out this short video demonstrating this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T4tLqueI2Q&t=5s.
There is a subtle movement in the pelvic floor which relaxes and retracts opening and closing. The breath moves up to expand the ribs supported by the attachment of the diaphragm to the ribs and the engagement of the intercostal muscles between the ribs. The ribs are attached to the vertebrae of the spine and the spine moves like a small subtle wave as does the pelvis which tilts and rocks gently with each breath. As the pelvis tilts you may even feel an ever so subtle movement in the legs. Similar movement may be detected in the arms.
Can you sense this subtle inner movement in your body? Can you feel the breath move through your body? Where do you feel movement or sensation? Notice where you may feel less sensation. Don’t worry if these movements are not all apparent immediately. With practice, an increased inner awareness will develop over time.
Humans are made up of mostly water and within our bellies there is a lot of fluid which gets moved around with deep diaphragmatic breathing. This increases circulation and creates a flow that moves blood and nutrients around. Fluid after all is meant to move and stagnant fluid doesn’t supply the organs with the energy they need to function optimally. The organs receive a nice massaging effect from the movement of the diaphragm and surrounding structures from increasing circulation and flow.
Even the bones in the skull expand and retract with each breath. In fact every cell in the body responds to each breath. Cells rely on oxygen to thrive and do a little dance of gratitude for each boost of fuel they receive. The breath can change our physiology as oxygen and carbon dioxide ratios shift moment to moment doing their own little dance with each inhale and exhale. Focusing on long slow exhales when sensing your inner world can quickly down regulate your nervous system to a calm relaxed state.
Sensing this inner movement can have profound health benefits. In fact this sense of our inner world is known by many to be the 8th human sense known as interoception. Having the ability to sense the space inside our bodies starts with awareness of the breath as it moves through our body. Being able to feel these sensations and shifts can help us detect potentially threatening health issues early by for example noticing your heart rate increasing, your temperature rising or your breath accelerating after a heated conversation with your boss before it escalates.
Any serious discussion about movement needs to talk about breathing since without breath there is no movement. Breathing is the most fundamental of human movements and is arguably one of the most dysfunctional movements that mostly still gets the least amount of attention. When addressing movement it is worth remembering that movement starts in the lungs.