It will surprise nobody that Katy spends a lot of time considering the mechanics of breathing movement to facilitate breath. But there are also other things to consider when it comes to breath and breathing. So, Katy invited her friend and author of the new book, Body by Breath, Jill Miller to talk about how the way we breathe can be showing up and affecting our bodies in ways we might not be aware of.
(time codes are approximate)
00:02:45 - Welcome Jill Miller (Jump to section)
00:05:45 - The Breathing Container (Jump to section)
00:13:30 - Some Examples (Jump to section)
00:21:45 - Brain Science and Anxiety (Jump to section)
00:30:35 - The Vagus Nerve (Jump to section)
00:34:15 - Singing and breathing (Jump to section)
00:42.45 - Upcoming event: Breathing-Movement Masterclass (Jump to section)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW
This is the Move Your DNA podcast, a show where movement science meets your everyday life. I’m Katy Bowman - biomechanist, author, and lifetime breather. All bodies are welcome here. Let’s get moving.
All right. Before we get started everyone, let’s all take a big deep breath together. (deep breath) So, I am 25 million minutes old, more or less - 47 years. If I multiply that by the 25 million minutes by the number of average breaths per minute, and I'm gonna use 12, that’s 300 million breaths I’ve taken. More or less.
Now I have a lot of thoughts on breath - specifically the mechanics of breath as well as breath rate. Breath rate is all bundled up with your heart rate as well, because these two organs, the heart, and lungs, are working together to bring oxygen into the bloodstream which then brings the oxygen to the cells that need it. Which is all of them, of course, but working muscles demand more oxygen than muscles that aren’t working.
And then if we take things one step further ... because I’m all about taking steps ... the way we view “breathing” is very much influenced by the fact that our culture is extremely sedentary. So breath - how we do it, specifically, how we do it specifically - relates to how we move and how much we move throughout our lives.
So it's gonna surprise nobody that I spend a lot of time considering the mechanics of movement - the way the levers and pulleys work throughout the breathing anatomy - to facilitate breath. But there are also other things to consider when it comes to breath.
So, I have brought in my friend and author of the new book, Body by Breath, Jill Miller, to talk with me about how the way we breathe can be showing up and affect our bodies in ways we might not be aware of.
Body by Breath is a complete manual to positively inspire you. Jill Miller's thorough and thoughtful book is packed with clear explanations, exercises, and gorgeous, helpful visuals. Body By Breath is the "how to breathe well" textbook you wish you'd read years ago.
That last paragraph was a blurb that I gave her for the book. It's a really great book.
- Jill Miller is a fascia expert. She has 30 years of corrective movement expertise that forges links between the worlds of yoga, massage, athletics, and pain management.
- She has created dozens of instructional DVDs. She has two signature self-care fitness programs that you might already know about - Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model®. They can be found at gyms and in yoga studios, hospitals, athletic training facilities, and corporations worldwide.
- Her first book was The Roll Model®. And she is also a contributing author on self-myofascial release in the textbook Fascia, Function and Medical Applications.
- Her new book, Body by Breath: The Science and Practice of Physical and Emotional Resilience is what we are going to talk about today.
KATY: Jill, welcome to Move Your DNA.
JILL: It's great to be back, Katy.
KATY: I guess I should just say a little bit: we are friends. How do you describe it? You say sisters from another mother.
JILL: I think that's cute. Yeah, sisters from another mother. I mean I really feel like we were somehow twins and separated at birth. Because when I discovered you I was like, "Wow she's saying everything I say but using a whole different lingo set and this woman is absolutely amazing."
KATY: And we sorta look the same. And sometimes I see a picture of you and say, "Oh it's kinda like..." You don't see that?
JILL: No not at all. I am like an eighth of you. I'm so…
KATY: I guess I meant your face. When I look at your face... you are…
JILL: Believe me, I would love to have your... this is like, yes, I'll take it. You want to call me Katy? Call me Katy.
KATY: I know. I see some similarities in our faces. But anyway, I was thinking…
JILL: Maybe it's our DNA?
KATY: Maybe. Well, we both move our DNA. That's pretty cool.
KATY: Anyway, I know that you and I can talk and go in a million different directions. You've got this great new book out on breath which we will point everyone to. And I always walk on my birthday. And I walked 47 kilometers for my 47th birthday. And you walked with me, a large portion of it because I heard you on the Gabby Reece podcast talking about this book. I knew I wanted to have you on, but I wanted to hear you talk about this book and I really encourage everyone listening to this to go listen to that podcast interview when we're done. Because Gabby's a great interviewer. And I feel like she was able to tease out from you so much about how you see breathing. Which is so different than how I see it. I'm such a mechanistic person. I'm not that as a person but that's my field. So I want to talk about breathing in the terms of the shapes and the levers and the pulleys, but I want to start with:
How do you see the breathing container?
JILL: First of all I want to say that Gabby's interview was the longest interview I've ever done. I sat down across the table from her and 2 hours and 40 minutes later I was like, "I gotta go get my kids!"
JILL: What has happened to us? So she has the ability to work time and so we really did establish a lot of very deep pits of nuance in that podcast that heretofore has not been unearthed. So I really appreciated her quourism. So how I see breathing. I see breathing in so many different ways. So I do see what you see. I think some of the fundamental things that I see about breathing and why I wanted to write this book, Body By Breath, is I really wanted people to have an inside-out journey with respiration. The perception of breath as a tool inside your body that can maneuver you from inside out and affect every system of your body. And of course, structurally, there are things that are going to impede ease of breath flow. There are ways our body works around airway that end up reshaping us over our life span. But it's not just a structural thing. These things are affecting digestion. They're affecting, obviously, your nervous system. They're affecting energy levels. They're impacting fluid flows throughout your body. Vascular flow. So I really want to help people be inside these chambers and work their way from inside out. And of course, in order to get this inside out, we use tools that impact us from outside in. And so there's a meet of pressure from inside and pressure from outside. What I'm physically referring to, of course, what I'm referring to are the roll model® balls, and very specifically we generously use the air full ball, the coregeous® ball throughout Body By Breath, so that you can really get biofeedback from this sphere of your air, usually you've blown up your own coregeous® ball, you get the feedback of where breath is moving, where it's not moving, and what are the sensations associated with it. And even just very simply, laying on the ball, suddenly movements start to occur that may not have been happening previously. But second to that you finally become aware of them. You become aware of the zones of respiration of your body and how to better manage it for whatever task you wish.
KATY: Yeah. I like that. So just to bounce back what I hear, just to clarify to make sure that I'm getting this piece correctly is, I love pressure as a movement. To think that we can apply pressure externally, but that breathing itself is also a pressure that's being created from inside that's pushing and pulling other things in your body that are not necessarily breath related. And I'm making air quotes right now with my fingers. So it's very similar to how I like to talk about movement and I think you do as well which is, your body moving is more about keeping your muscles and bones, and nerves, the musculoskeletal system healthy. That all of these other systems depend on movement to function. It's part of - movement is a part of this machine that is our body, if we want to belittle it to a machine. But it's a part. But breathing is also a part. And breathing is not simply just taking in air and releasing other gasses. That motion that is happening is something that all of our other systems depend on.
JILL: Yes. This is a fundamental pump. When you think of the main mover of breath through your body, it's this trampoline, odd mushroom shape muscle within your rib cage - a skeletal muscle within your ribcage known as the respiratory diaphragm, and this respiratory diaphragm, it makes 22,000 on average contractions per day. That's bananas! It is contracting when you are sleeping. It is contracting and persisting when you are passed out drunk. It is enduring beyond any other skeletal muscle in our body. And it is such an odd shape. It has very odd behaviors. And it's regulated by your brain - brain stem rather - in very novel ways. And I find it to be absolutely fascinating. And I think in the book I call it the hub of movement. It really is a central skeletal piece, a skeletal muscle piece within the body and so I see it as an organizing principle. And so a lot of my focus in some of the early chapters of the book is helping people to map that muscle so that they can improve their perception of this exchange of air in out. I also see this exchange of air in out in other sorts of esoteric ways. Like I see breath as a transient organ. You know it is never yours to keep but you're constantly exchanging it with the space you're in, the environment you're in, with others. And you know, an organ is made up of multiple tissues and you know by the way every time you breathe in your pretty much breathing in a lot of other people's skin cells and animal cells, and all sorts of other particulates. But your body has this amazing ability to filter so that really what you're ending up getting is hopefully mostly just the oxygen that you need and you're getting rid of the carbon dioxide that you no longer need. So I don't think I answered your question. I think I just threw out another buffet of chocolates from which to pick and choose another river for us to flow down.
KATY: Well you're poetic. I always think of you as a body poet. But I hear how you see breathing. This is how you see it. And I really value thinking beyond how I tend to think which is purely the end result of the oxygen.
KATY: The end result of the oxygen getting to where it's going. This is the purpose of it. But what you're saying is the journey is also part of the purpose. So we're not only talking the end goal but the whole series of steps through which you move through, through which the breath moves through to get what we sort of identify as the reward of breathing.
KATY: And I guess it's identified that way because it's the most immediate consequence when you don' get it.
KATY: So it's not an arbitrary distinction. But I see how you see it. And now I want to add a little bit of practical. And I also want to clarify - your book is - there are so many exercises in your book. And I would say that there's two categories. I would sort them in Breathing exercises - do this with your breath. Follow these patterns of movement with your breath so to speak. And then there are non-breathing movements that help make breath occur with less resistance. I'll just say it with that. You're trying to remove the resistances that we have to bringing in breath.
JILL: Yes. So let me simplify for the listeners. The book, even though it's called Body By Breath, the book really, honestly, it focuses on our recovery response in our body. It really is a book that provides you a playbook for your parasympathetic nervous system. What is that? It's a playbook for your relaxation response. And there are four major tools that I've boiled down practically for people to employ so that they can build this compound pharmacy of relaxation in their body. And those 4 tools are Breath, roll, move, and yoga Nidra which also is non-sleep breath. So what Katy is referring to, she saw that there are about 100 exercises in the book. And some of them are actually just breathing actions. Where it's almost like a conductor and in fact, the breathing patterns are mapped out on a treble clef. It looks like a musical experience where you're following a certain pattern of breathing. But often these patterns of breathing are coupled with some mindset work with some attention or focus work so that you can stay present with the pattern. And then also many of these breath practices, because the majority of them are to induce this relaxation response, are also coupled with a position. And typically for the relaxation response typically that position is on the ground or slightly on a gentle slope. So there are a few just breath exclusive practices where "do it wherever you are", "do it right now where you're standing or sitting, or while you're driving." And the simplest breath exercise, I think for ... it's actually the hardest ... the simplest breath exercise conceptually is witness breath. And witness breath is basic awareness. To watch breath occurring in the wild of your body. So you are nature. You are the habitat. And you are the breath scientist also. And you get to watch breath enter and exit however it wishes to inside this environment that is you. That ask can be very difficult for many bodies. Especially if the only time they're aware of breath is when they're out of it. Or the only time they are aware of breath is when they're swimming. But when we start to place attention on breathing, our breathing and also our brain and our attention becomes hyper-aware of breathing. And that can often make us overcontrol respiration. Where respiration actually happens all the time without you having to pay it any mind. So the first step is practicing paying attention to your breath. Watching it come and go and not trying to control it. Not trying to control the airflow coming in or the airflow coming out or the natural pause that tend to happen after exhale happens. Or inducing a hold after your inhale. So witness breath would be really a critical step. So many people can't just do a witness breath because their breath becomes so self-conscious or it actually starts to spike their anxiety when they start to stare at the process of breathing in the wild in their body. And so one of the reasons I started moving into pressure-based exercises, or palpation-based exercises, that's how I frame it in the book but really it is inducing pressure into the body, these palpation-based exercises what they do is the pressure alone can actually induce a relaxation response. Which is great. And so that will make you less in need of having the clutch and break on your own breath. And you can let your breath come and go around the shape that you're in. So for example, if I lay down on the side of my rib cage, on my side body, and place a coregeous® ball underneath my armpit, it's going to compress that hemisphere of ribs that I'm reclining on. And I'm just gonna lay there and let breath come and go and watch the breath come and go and watch the interesting distortions. Your breath is going to work around the imposition of that pressure. But when you take that ball out - you could conduct a breath exercise there which is definitely the maestro, the next level of what we do is I'll tell people "all right. Now you have a ball here. See if you can move your ribs into the elastic ball as you expand the ribs." I might not even say breath in. I'll say, "Expand your ribs into the ball" and suddenly they intuitively know that if I breathe into my ribcage, I'm gonna get my ribs to move into the ball and then the ball's going to help my ribs do what is called downward rotation. So this is a little rib exercise where I start to improve my proprioception of these moving parts of the rib cage in order to inform this interoceptive, this philological phenomenon of air in air out. And then of course we go to the other side and you compare each side. So that's an example of a really simple breath-only exercise and then adding in the stimulus of a ball in order to highlight the breath container as you put it one of your questions to me. And of course, we can add even more movement to that by manipulating the rib cage. I can kind of roll forward or roll backward. Or I can create a bit of tuck untuck. A tiny sideline cat cow while I'm upon the ball. So there are thousands of new directions that one could go to bring awareness to the process of breathing and simultaneously it can override the sympathetic need to kind of control the breath or if the breath is feeling self-conscious.
KATY: All right. So, this is just to make sure I've got my own understanding of how I've interpreted your books. And I have to say it's a long book. I have not read all - is it 700 pages?
JILL: Good guess. It's 480. We actually cut 360 pages.
KATY: All right. So that...so sorry.
JILL: But the first part is 187 pages and that's the science. And then the rest of it is practically exercises. And then there's the addendums. There's a scar chapter. There's a diastasis recti chapter. That is where you are located.
KATY: Well thank you. I mostly read the first part. I saw all the exercises and I knew I would experiment with them. But I really think what you did so beautifully in this book was what you do so beautifully which is - besides punning - create simple steps for people to follow. You know like, I don't know what it is. It just - so many people really like clarity around the order or the procedure to do something. I'm terrible at that. That's not really my skill set. But I love how you do it. And I was able to walk away like ok I understand. And if I go back to what you were saying before, the way I'm interpreting it is a breathing exercise - a simple breathing exercise - would simply be observing yourself breathing without changing anything. Whether it's for 20 seconds or 30 seconds or 5 breaths. You're like, "I'm not even paying attention to how I'm breathing." So it's a mindfulness exercise, yes? I feel like this is foundational. I've done a lot of different meditation practices and this is what you do for the first three days.
KATY: But I didn't understand until after I read your book is why that doesn't work for many people. I'm sorry I don't want to say it that way. I think it does work for many people but I think there is a group of people for which it does not work because simply observing the breath creates anxiety.
JILL: Yeah, I do think that it is... so when we're observing our breath, this gets into some of the brain science that's in the book so I'll try to keep it as simple as possible. But the book has a chapter that goes down a path of fascia and your sensing systems. There's also a chapter on the breathing brain. And I need to highlight both of those chapters for how I'm going to answer you. So when we are observing our body in motion and feeling our way through placement of joints, movement of muscles, we're relying on the theme of proprioception. And the sensory-motor cortex is helping us to map where we are. But we also have a subtle sensing system and this is called interoception where we are attuned to the sensations of our physiology. And these sensations of our physiology are movement of air, the movement of blood - you can feel your heartbeat, the movement of digestive matter through your guts, the feeling of emotions, the feeling of sexual urgency or lust. These are all through a pathway in your spine called the lateral lambic pathway. So they're going up a different pathway than the larger movement-based information is. And so if I interrupt my breathing by putting my structure on an object like a coregeous® ball, my sensory-motor map gets really excited. It's like, "oh look, I'm feeling his bones. This is really something to experience" And so that can help sidestep some of the - excuse me let me step back a second. In the interoceptive pathway, we are processing a lot of these nervous signals in the insula and other emotional centers of the brain. And so that can spike our anxiety or our fear, or our emotions, and start to surface. It's also very difficult to feel your physiology, the subtle physiology when you are sympathetically active and have a lot of movement going on. That will subdue, it will submerge, these subtle signals. Which is why during massage or during deep quiet or during deep stillness we start to feel our emotion and that can be overwhelming. And so something as simple as paying attention to the cadence of your breath - bearing witness to your breathing - can be intensely emotional and stressful for many bodies. And in fact, when I was researching the book, a term came back up into my research which is relaxation-induced anxiety. Which is this phenomenon where many bodies feel threat when they're in stillness. So many bodies when they go try to mediate or do savasana, that's when their pain actually shows up.
JILL: That's when unconscious fidgets. The restless leg shows up. Or and in some cases, people get these sympathetic nerve rushes, painful nerve rushes down their arms or down their legs. "Why can't I just be still?" Because my body won't let me. My sympathetic nervous system, for some reason, feels threat in stillness. And I'm able to tackle that and explain that out in a few different ways in the chapter on the vagus nerve where I use polyvagal theory as a lens to look at that. But this relaxation-induced anxiety affects somewhere around 53% of humans, Katy.
JILL: There's not a lot of research on it but one of the papers I uncovered I was like, "You're kidding me" But it makes sense because so many people are meditation averse. They hate the thought of meditating or sitting still. So what can those bodies do?
JILL: Where there's a way to welcome your anxiety to the table, first of all. To not punish your anxiety body but be like, "hey, you're welcome here too." Let's figure out how to make you happy and all the parts of me healthy. All of me is welcome here. And that's a big invitation throughout Body by Breath. All these parts, you're a parts person, so there's these parts too. Right?
JILL: That haven't been listened to and haven't been given a seat at the table and we're always trying to usher them away, to stifle them away. So to circle back to your question, I think this is a phenomenon that you can't necessarily breathe yourself out of. But movement coupled with breath, coupled with position, coupled with some mindset work, coupled with self-massage, I think, what I call the 5 P's are a compound that can really help to attenuate the, what we call in the Jewish space, the shilkas. That overflow, that uncontrolled overflow that is so ultimately distracting to stillness. Not that stillness is the goal. I don't want to make that be that's the cherry on top - "oh you can just sit still." What a trigger - "sit still."
KATY: I just see the bigger toolbox. You were saying breath is itself a toolbox. But I can also see that breath movements are themselves part of the movement toolbox as well.
KATY: I'm just always looking at my own toolbox and everyone listening will be looking at their own toolbox. And I really appreciate this idea. I think that I saw something you put on social media which we talked about and we can't seem to find where it was. I think it was on one of those magical disappearing things that you put on - stories? Right? Those are the ones that go away.
JILL: Right stories.
KATY: Look at me. I'm sure there's a bunch of young people laughing "what are those things stories that go away?" But you were saying for ... so we don't have it where we can review it, but my take of what you are saying is ... and I'm gonna talk about exercise. I do think that in a lot of the work that I'm doing that's not necessarily front-facing or forward facing, but the idea of using movement as a tool, using physical activity and exercise as a tool for people dealing with mental health issues, or simply as a way of proactively caring for your mental health - the way that that is viewed is always something that is more energetic in nature. The movements are larger. The breath rate is faster. The breaths are deeper. But mindful movement, which is an emerging category, mindfulness has been around for a while but mindful movement - it's not really clear what that is yet but there does seem to be some element of self-observation while you are also doing some sort of physical activity. But it doesn't necessarily need to be something that would qualify as fitness so the heart rate isn't necessarily up. It can be slower. So you've got these two different ways that movement could be working in the body. Some people might feel better in their mind, in their brain, in their body by going faster and harder. And for other people, that is anxiety-inducing. Or simply when they get into that - they can't get into that space for whatever reason. I don't know if it always has to be anxiety. But then there's this other option - well you could use the movement and breath toolbox in a slightly different way by going slower. And also get the same benefits. And I feel that you're speaking the same way about breath. And it's really hard to separate breath from movement. Because breath is a response to movement. Right? So a lot of discussions around breath are always sort of considering it in a vacuum. My pun for the day. Don't let that one go by.
KATY: But it's paired in a context of dynamic bodies. And in this time when our bodies don't move very much, we sort of - breath is living in a context that it's never had to live in before. Breath has never had to live in a sedentary context before. Right? And so we're now starting to maybe see the way breath behaves in different environments and it's seeing how it works in this particular environment. And I just really appreciate the book. And more than the book - the discussion. What you're bringing to the table and I think people can gain a lot from getting the book and obviously reading it. Don't just get it and put it under your pillow. You actually have to look at it inside. But also listening to some of the interviews that you've done that will go more deeply into these other non-mechanistic things which I think are so beautiful.
KATY: I really love all cranial nerves. But your book really - the vagus nerve - is it 10? I think it's cranial nerve number 10.
KATY: What your book made me think about when you were talking about the movement of the face muscles as relating to this nerve. And it made me think of issues to do with tics of the face which run in our family. Terretts syndrome and things like that. And then how - as soon as I heard you say that I was like, "Oh I wonder if there's been research on the vagus nerve and tics in the face". And sure enough, there are some things that are starting to come up. It's external. It seems like an external …
JILL: Yeah. It's an electrical implant that is very effective, especially for epilepsy and they've also seen many broad changes in effect using electrical vagal stimulation. But these are implanted electrical wires in the side of the neck. Are there mechanical interventions that we can do...
KATY: Or just move... yeah, exactly.
JILL: Yeah, mechanical, pressure, or movement. Anything that can conform and deform or arouse mechanosensation via pressure, via rolling. Well, that's my thesis. And so that's what I'm hoping, maybe someday, I work with a lot of different scientists from a lot of different backgrounds. I try to get them on the balls. I try to get them on the floor so they can have the experience in their body and start thinking of research questions that maybe we can tackle someday. So the vagus nerve, cranial nerve 10, also known as the pneumogastric nerve. So we did an incredible free article on Tune Up Fitness that covered the vagus nerve and has so many free videos on YouTube that you can go and investigate that right now. But I definitely would say it's going to whet your palate and that chapter in the book is so substantial and there's so many more luminaries, there's so many more threads to discuss. Especially as you're talking about facial tics and the vagus. There's some really cool stuff there, but you've gotta get the book and read it because it's too complicated to explain on a podcast.
KATY: We could do a whole episode on just the vagus nerves. So I just want to let people know, it's really interesting in that you're branching off - that was another pun. You wouldn't get it until after you read that chapter - that just shows, again, how broadly breath is affecting things, right? It's the same for movement. We are just not really .... listeners to this, we are used to going "oh movement is for so much more." Breath is for so much more than it seems to be about on the surface.
JILL: Yeah, I can summarize it for you Katy. I think breath is often seen as a nose to lungs experience. Breath is a body-wide event. And you know what else is a body-wide event? Mental health.
JILL: Mental health does not live in your head. It is a body-wide event. So this book really tries to outline that for people and inspire them, no pun intended, inspire them to get into their body and find these corners that help you be a better participant in your own life.
KATY: I listened to you on my birthday walk and just hearing you talk about breathing, I found myself like ... (deep breath) ... like trying out breathing just listening to you do it. And listening to some of the exercises that you were referring to or alluding to. So I remember texting my husband "Go to the grocery store" where they have cheap - there's just one store and it's got everything across the board in it, but I remember in this section there were really cheap not footballs, not soccer balls, but the ones that little kids have on the beach. Just get me one of those. Cuz I want to do a move that I know I need to do and that is to put it on my chest and lay on the floor with my upper body draped over it and just be there. And my family was around talking with me and here I am draped over the ball.
JILL: Plunked over the ball.
KATY: I think of fondant. It's a strawberry and I'm chocolate and I'm draping over and covering it. And then I got a crazy coughing fit.
KATY: Just came up from the deep it came up. And it had something in there. And I'm not a mucusy person. I don't ever have anything in my nose or my head or my chest. And then my voice just was like ... bloop ... clear. So that is just ...what other exercise, this is just me asking for a friend, who is me, because I love myself, what other thing besides that is great for voice. And I'm not even talking about singing. I'm talking about speaking. Speaking is becoming harder and harder for me to do. It's becoming harder and harder for me to do metaphorically. And it's harder and harder for me to do mechanically. And I think those two things are related. What do you think?
JILL: I have so many thoughts about it.
JILL: So many thoughts. So, thought one. I just want to address the sputum and the amazing mechanical advantage you gave to your lungs by adding pressure with the simple deformity of laying on that coregeous® -like ball. Something that can actually squish and move the joints of your lungs. You have five lungs. And they should slide against each other. And one of the ways that we can expectorate is by squishing and releasing. Squishing and releasing. Letting the lungs go through the pressure oscillations that mechanically help the cilia and the little finer and then bigger and bigger tubes move fluid out of a lung. So I work with a lot of people with lung disease or long covid and have lung scar tissue in their lungs from being in an induced coma. And they're on so many types of different medicine to help get fluid up but, you know, there's nothing better than wringing out your own lung sponges. And so just introducing novel pressure like that can be incredible. Your lungs are a barrier. They're a barrier to the outside. And they are filled - you sent me that study, or not me, you sent this out in your newsletter the other day. I have taken so many notes I can't believe I didn't come across this.
KATY: It's amazing. It's really important for people to know.
JILL: Go back to Katy's newsletter that she published I think it was on March 25 and she included a research paper about the protective environment within the lungs. The number of cells. The number of pressoreceptors - these are the channels that respond to pressure that suddenly create a cascade, a protective cascade against invaders and whatnot. But anyway the mechanical advantage that we give ourselves from laying on the coregeous® ball, or a rolled up yoga mat can do, that is a wonderful thing for moving the jointedness within your lungs themselves and then of course giving an advantage to the levers that pull on them - the ribs and the diaphragm. Ok, secondly, voice is something that is extremely precious to me because I started as a singer - as a kid. And the reason I even know about the diaphragm is two-fold: one, my mother who is the asthmatic, and two because a music teacher taught me how to feel my own diaphragm when I was in elementary school. And years later here I am with a book all about it. So, I hear your voice and I've heard your voice for decades and I've noticed you have a little scratchy ... a little bit of a
KATY: Yeah. I'm also choking when I'm trying to swallow. You know what I mean? I've just noticed that there's less space in there overall.
JILL: Yeah. So what's interesting is how much you enjoyed the vagus nerve chapter, because in the vagus nerve chapter there is this, I think, a box that talks about the special visceral efference. Go review that again, Katy.
JILL: And then in the book, in the Roll section in part 2, I divide breathing into 3 zones. Well, I divide them into three zones in the beginning of the book. There's zone 1 which is below the rib cage. There's zone 2 which is of the rib cage. And there's zone 3 which is head, neck, shoulder muscles that are really are "in case of emergency" muscles if they're used for respiration. And so I'm not saying you're using your "in case of emergency" muscles for respiration, but something is impacting your zone 3 muscles that's creating probably inappropriate firing or the vocal cords. So who knows what it is? It could be from birth thing that now that we're hitting perimenopause, all sorts of weird things start to happen as…
KATY: As we talked about…
JILL: As our bodies change. As our bodies evolve into this next developmental stage of our life. But the voice can be one of those things that literally collapses. I have an actress friend who has been having very frequent bouts of laryngitis that just have come on suddenly. And it's been in tandem with perimenopause. So I think there can be hormonal fluctuations that affect the behavior of the muscles but also the connective tissues because there's a pruning that starts to happen all over the body. Anyway ... so I guess the shorthand would be, I would focus on zone 3 roll outs that are head, neck, face. There's tons of them in there. But I also use zone 2 stuff for vocal production. Because you want to make sure that you can control the intercostal space or the intercostal activity. There's just more to this. There's a lot more to this but those are the pieces.
KATY: And that's helpful because I know enough about my body to know what my access is to oxygen. And I can dive and I can swim and I can produce volume. It is really, as you said, shoulder to ears. And I know that because I can feel it. I think that was also a way to let people hear ... know how this book is like ... I wouldn't say it's necessarily a cover to cover book. YOu can definitely read it that way but it is, for me, the way that I would use it, is very similar to be like, ok, I want to work on my breath or my breathing parts because of this thing that I can't do right now that I know has changed or...
KATY: Or I'm curious what this is in my own body. That helps me see. Zone 3. Stick to Zone 3 and that when you see so many exercises it gets overwhelming for people. "Am I supposed to do them all?" No. Same thing with movement. What are you interested in doing that you can't do right now or what did you used to do that you want to fix or what's bugging you? My voice is bugging me. I will work on Zone 3.
JILL: Oh I know what we should talk about. I think people are really interested that we're gonna do a little mash-up around our work.
KATY: That's right.
JILL: Again. So Katy and I created a program called Walking Well a few years ago. And we were able to release it during the pandemic. With Katy's release of ReThink Your Position which is incredible.
KATY: Thank you.
JILL: And so important. And I think it's super cross-over. I mean, you know, household type of stuff. We're gonna do a little mash-up of your breathing movement masterclass stuff. And that's gonna be May 8. So we want to talk about that at all?
KATY: Yeah. The thing that I wanted to get out there. Again, I'm the hinges, levers, pulleys kind of kid. Kyphosis, hyperkyphosis - excessive curvature of the upper back - when we talk about the breathing motions and the rotations of the ribs and all these pieces, the full movement of a lot of your breathing parts depends on the position of a lot of your parts. And this class that we're gonna do is sort of... uh harkens back to Walking Well in that we're going to be pairing movement and rolls and then breathing exercises. I hope it's lots of fun. I hope it's very explorative. It's live. I think that that's the big difference. People can drop into it live and if you miss it, you can always get a recording of it later on. But, what are you, what is the one or two things that you want people to walk away with?
JILL: First of all I want people to know that you can breathe in any position. Your airway is so dynamic. So I think that there is a lot of breath shaming going on in the universe right now. People are feeling like I'm not breathing enough or I'm breathing wrong. And I just want to say, you're alive. You're breathing.
KATY: You're breathing. You're nailing it.
JILL: You're breathing. You're nailing it. And your body is so dynamic. That's why your diaphragm is shaped like a half circle.
JILL: It's incredible. You can breathe in any position. But there are ways to obviously optimize the length-tension relationship in all of the soft and hard parts of your breathing apparatus so that you have more options of movement.
KATY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JILL: So you are at less risk of a fracture or you are at less risk of straining a rib or what have you. So I'm really looking forward to being able to share some big ideas around fascial adaptations that happen due to kyphotic posture and really show you some ways that you can self-treat yourself. And that coupled with the movements that Katy's gonna teach out. I think it'll be a really good little capsule. It's something I really want my mother to do. Because your shoulders and neck live on top of your rib cage. That's home base for your shoulders and your neck. And so with the adjustment in the thorax with the excessive rounding, your shoulders have no other option but to lift up and draw forward. And that just creates so much extra burden on what I would call your Zone 3 muscles - this head, neck, shoulder zone. And that can put strain on your voice. It can put strain on, obviously, your neck, vertebrae, and their discs. And it's not the ideal shape for optimal force production via respiration.
KATY: And it's also not great for your shoulders. Just to expand it, if someone's thinking I don't have any real problems with breathing or questions around breathing - when we talk about repetitive movements, breathing is your number one repetitive movement.
JILL: 22,000 times a day!
KATY: That's right. I calculated my breaths at the beginning of this episode and I'm at 300 million breaths. Right? It's my most repetitive…
JILL: You would be like a gerbil if you were 300 million at this point.
KATY: At 47 years? That is…
JILL: Oh in years?
KATY: No no. I am not a gerbil. I am not a gerbil. That is 13 breaths a minute.
JILL: I thought you meant since the beginning of the podcast.
KATY: We started the podcast? No no. 47 years. For people who listen to this podcast who think about movement and how it permeates their life, when you're talking about what's going on in the discs in your neck or the way the shoulders swing when you're walking, or what's happening in parts that you don't necessarily associate with breathing, you might want to look at this number 1 repetitive movement that you have to see how you're doing it, right? Whether you're an athlete. Whether you are someone who has never really moved that much before and likes the idea of starting with something so voluminous. Like in everything in between. We all breathe. We all have this in common. I'll talk about this more in the course because we can just keep nerding out around breath and I really want to, in the course, tie it together with things like heart rate. Your heart rate and breath are so connected. They communicate with each other. There's different things setting the pace in the body. So if you're interested in the cardiovascular system as a whole and looking at breath as a movement of the heart and the lungs as well as all these other pieces, I think - I'm excited. I'm excited to do this course with you - if you can't tell. If you can't tell by …
JILL: I am so excited too. And I'm also feeling like we've only given ourselves 90 minutes.
KATY: 90 minutes!
JILL: To answer questions and answers and there is SO much to cover. So this will be - I guess this will be a teaser. But it'll be our first time mashing up our kind of breath nerdessness.
KATY: But you also wrote, what? Like a 1200-page book on breathing. So this is not…
JILL: You can read the book.
KATY: Is this a four-part series? Like the Hobbit.
JILL: And I want to also so say, Katy's been there for me all along. She's given me a few rounds of advice on this book. None of which I took, because I'm an idiot. I'm kidding!
JILL: But it was actually - they cut 350 pages last August. So it was so it was so overwritten. I had been writing the book for 8 years under contract but 10 years prior to that. And I've been writing this stuff for 18 years. So it just took me forever. I was in agony. I think I did reach out to you in agony a number of times
KATY: We can share our book agony sometimes. That's where you're like a sister. And I just want to say, we're talking about a sister from another mother, sister from another mister - have everyone think about it. I just want to give a shout-out to my dad who is no longer with us. My dad used to take a nap every day. And would practice deep breathing. He taught me how to practice deep breathing on a walk. He'd be like, you just (breath) you pull it in deep and you hold it …
KATY: and he's like and you reach both hands out in front of you. Push your hands as far away and take a deep breath here. And then reach both hands out to the sides and take a deep breath there. Reach both hands up, take a deep breath there. And he used to - he was an air traffic controller - so he sat. Very high stress. One of the highest stress probably inside jobs that exists. Chain-smoking.
JILL: Same breathing.
KATY: Well yeah. And then looking at a dark screen for 8 hours a day. That was the way he would balance out. He lived to almost 90. But it was really about this deep breathing practice that he had. And he would come home from work and be walking across the field and all the kids, little kids, just walking the school bus because he'd get off all night shift, and they'd be doing the same thing. Swishing their arms out and role-modeling this person walking in front of him. He was very much ahead of his time in a lot of things. And I was thinking of him as I read this book. Sometimes you just get it intuitively. Sometimes you're just able to hear, I could use this, and you don't have a lot of restriction in allowing yourself to meet your own needs. And sometimes you need a 2000-page book to help you. And somewhere in between, right? So that's what we're doing. I just want to acknowledge - I look at some of the things that we're teaching. Sitting, walking, breathing. How to go to the bath... such fundamental things but we have gotten so far away from daily - an environment that fosters these things and now we're having to reverse …
KATY: Well it's a new way of it being about to go forward, so again, just acknowledging that there's a spectrum out there of the things that we get intuitively and the things we need to learn about. And so I just appreciate your work in putting out this Breath. And it got me drapin' over a ball. So, that is convincing and to have an effect within minutes. Thank you very much.
JILL: Well I'm here for it all. I love the humanity that it brings out in everybody. It unites us. That seems so trite but you would not be here if you didn't have this fundamental movement and the number of breaths: well performed or reps sort of in a different alignment performed it keeps us going. It's just amazing.
KATY: Yeah. Our bodies are so adaptable and we can use that to go: what is the direction we want to go with them?
KATY: It's a choice. All right. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
JILL: Always Katy. I can't wait to see you.
That’s all for today, friends. You can find everything we mentioned linked in the show notes for this episode, including a link to register for that Breathing Movements masterclass Jill and I will be teaching.
And I'm just gonna end with this: When I had little babies, I found I could calm my kids, and I'm talking small - maybe in the first few months of life - I could calm them by placing them high on my chest with their head very close to mine, and I would take a slow but loud breath. A loud breath on purpose. I wanted the sound of my breath to cut through the sounds of their fussing. So it was almost like it was a bit of breathing hyperbole. I would just (breathe loudly). I'd make this loud sound. And it would catch their attention. And they would quickly match my slower breathing rate. And I’m not sure how that worked. I have read that babies, especially newborns, are influenced by heart rate of the people that are holding them. That's why kangaroo care for babies that might be premature or who have other issues that need physical touch and support the idea is that they can actually feel the heartbeat from the caretaker - the person that's holding them and that helps their heart match, know what to do. I'm not sure. But I was thinking that maybe they were feeling my heart rate. Perhaps it was just hearing my extra loud slow breath. Either way, it was a tool that really worked for me. It worked for us. And so, I thought I would close this show with a few deep breaths just for you. Just for you and I to do together. And you can tell me later if they made you want to take some mindful breaths too.
This has been the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such. Our theme music was performed by Dan MacCormick. This podcast is produced by Brock Armstrong (that's me). And the transcripts are done by Annette Yen. Find out more about Katy, her books, her movement programs, and everything else over at NutritiousMovement.com.