Hilary Clinton revealed that she used ‘alternate nostril breathing’ (Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit) to help her deal with the stress of losing the US Presidential campaign.
As a massage therapist I see how stress negatively affects our breathing and in turn how this can impact upon us physically.
If someone is dealing with stress, the chances are they are breathing more quickly, which means the muscles involved in the action are being over worked. The scalene muscles – coming from the side of the neck, attaching on to the upper ribs – suffer at times like this, becoming tighter.
In their tightened state they may press against the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves traveling from the spinal cord down the arm. If it is impinged by a tight scalene it can cause neck or shoulder pain and it may cause numbness/tingling in the hand. If you’re experiencing the latter, you may worry you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
It can be surprising for some to discover that the pain they’ve been feeling is caused by a pesky tight muscle in their neck. And what a relief to find out that massage can help!
It’s great to see this relief on a client’s face at the end of the session when the pain has eased. But usually there’s more work to be done if the goal is to be long-term pain free. The stressor (s) needs to be identified/addressed otherwise the problem will probably come back. If the pain has been going on for some time it’s unlikely one massage will fix it, so the client might need more treatments. I often recommend stretches to do at home (perfect after a massage so the improved range of movement can be fully appreciated) or articles on breathing techniques.
So which breathing technique should you choose? You can follow Hilary’s example with the ‘alternate nostril breathing’ or try something else such as the abdominal breathing technique or Sama Vitti (‘equal breathing’). It’s all about finding the one that works for you.