I heard a fascinating story from a fellow instructor about a client of his who was a lung surgeon. This surgeon said his least favorite surgeries to perform were those on the lower lobes of the lungs on older patients. According to him, the stench that comes out of those lungs is the absolute worst smell in the world. He has to suck on a mint or candy while operating on these patients, in addition to having essential oils rubbed on the inside of his surgical mask, so he doesn’t pass out from the horrific smell.
The reason the smell is so bad is that older people rarely take deep breaths. They breathe very shallowly. This means that the air in the bottom portions of the lobes of the lungs never actually leaves the lungs. It stays there – forever. It pretty much becomes rotten air that is permanently trapped inside the body.
Wow! Think about that for a minute. Rotten air trapped inside your lungs FOREVER!
Now we all have another reason to try and breathe deeply.
This surgeon was so horrified by this smell that he sought out a movement practitioner to teach him how to clear the stench from his own lungs.
Research shows that people with scoliosis are already at a disadvantage when it comes to deep breathing because the ribcage is usually constricted. On top of having a Cobb Angle that restricts movement in the ribcage, there’s also rotation in which the ribs are pushing into the lungs. Because of those ribcage restrictions, I’m sure all of us with scoli have this stench in our lungs too. Therefore, it is vital that people with scoliosis learn how to breathe deeply.
Note, for great ways to learn to breathe deeply, check out the instructions I give in my workout video Hard Core Scoli.
I recently learned another amazing technique for breathing deeply during a bodywork session from manual therapist, John Barbee. John is a good ol’ boy from Knoxville, Tenn. with a laid back, humble demeanor who speaks with a slow Southern drawl (which just goes to show that you never know where you’ll find an amazing manual therapist!). He’s not on social media and his small bio on his website doesn’t say a whole lot, but he came so highly recommended from so many of my peers that I was willing to give him a try.
At the end of our time together, he taught me a breathing technique called “tommo breathing.” Some people call this Hesychia (meaning “the silence” in Greek). If you search for it online you’ll come across a myriad of names for this technique.
While some do this breathing technique to tap into the spiritual realm, that was not John’s purpose in teaching it to me, nor my purpose in teaching all of you. If you wish to take it to the spiritual level, be my guest, but my goal is for this to help you with your physical scoli body.
I was shocked by this breathing method because I saw immediate results. I could breathe longer and better almost instantly.
Here are the basics of the tommo breathing technique that John taught me:
- Lie on your back totally relaxed. You’ll be inhaling and exhaling 100 times. Each breath is a 100% inhale, quickly followed by a 100% exhale. Consciously try and relax every vertebra while doing the tommo breath. John quickly noticed I carried a lot of stress in my spine, so I had to very consciously try and relax that area. As someone living with scoli, this breath technique takes a great deal of mental focus, as you have to actively try to release your spine. Not an easy task.
- After your 100th inhale, exhale all of the air out and hold your breath for as long as you can without causing any tension in your spine. Inhale and hold your breath again. I held the long inhale and exhale for about one minute each.
- Now go into another round of the quicker breathing like before, but only do 50 reps this time. You’re also going to add a “lift” in your ribcage. Bring your ribcage up towards your head with each inhale and relax it back down with every exhale.
- After the 50th inhale, exhale all the air out and hold your breath for as long as you can while pushing the ribcage out from the inside. Without any air held in, you’re expanding the inside of your bottom of your ribcage. On the inhaled hold, engage your abs and tighten them. On my second round, I was able to hold my breath on the inhale and exhale for 1.5 minutes each.
I couldn’t believe that this simple breathing exercise increased my capacity to breathe by 30 additional seconds on both my inhale and exhale! These exercises may sound like a hassle, but this can all be done in a matter of 5 minutes or less. And the benefits are worth it! I mean seriously, are you content with leaving that rotten air in your lungs? Get it out!!
Check out my video on Spiral Spine TV titled “Tommo Breathing” for a step-by-step demonstration of the tommo breathing technique described above.
Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.”
I praise Jesus you can breathe, so give tommo breathing a try and see if it will help your scoli body, just like it’s helped mine.
Has your scoliosis caused you to have breathing issues? If so, what techniques have you used to make your breathing better?