There are a lot of systems that function subconsciously in your body that you likely take for granted and very rarely, if ever think about; among the most important of these is breathing. It is an amazing physiological process that allows you to draw oxygen from the air and filter it into your blood stream to keep you alive. Your brain and spinal cord automatically just do it for you. You breathe faster when you run and slower when you sleep; it’s a great deal, your body just figures it out how much oxygen you need and alters your breathing rate for you. The drawback of not being an active participant in your breathing pattern is that you can lose touch with what is ‘normal’ for your body and be unaware of how things like pain, stress and posture are affecting you.
A basic understanding of the biomechanics of breathing and posture will help you understand what I mean. Your ribcage and thoracic spine are the structural foundation of your torso. The rigidity of it protects your organs and supports your shoulders and neck, while the mobility of it helps you breathe, twist and move. Your lungs line the inside of your ribcage. In order for you to draw air into them, your ribcage needs to expand slightly and your diaphragm needs to contract and pull down; this will create a negative pressure and air will be pulled in. The elastic recoil of your ribcage and diaphragm passively push the air out to complete the breathing cycle. This keeps you alive.
There is a difference between being alive and breathing well. Just because you can breathe, does not mean you are doing a good job at it. Just because you can stand, doesn’t mean you have good posture. Just because you can walk, doesn’t mean you are using your body properly.