Breathing Through the Kidneys
While in the throes of an asana Yoga class the teacher’s solid voice rings out “breath into your lower back.” Huh? What does that feel like exactly? What does it do for me? Take a closer look at the muscle structure of the back on an anatomical chart, the Latin words “Quadratus Lumborum” or QL for short, can be clearly seen printed with an line drawing the eyes to a fleshy rectangle on a diagonal tilt sitting on either side of the low back spine & hips. The muscle begins on the top back ridge of each pelvic bone and inserts into the transverse processes of the lumbar spine and 12th rib. What is not seen is the muscle’s function. The QL limits and also allows the torso to bend to each side. The QL is an accessory respiratory muscle, indicating that we have voluntary influence over these muscles. Each QL muscle acts with the respiratory diaphragm to contract pulling the ribs down so the lungs fill with oxygen. The QL relaxes on the exhalation. Imbalance in one or both hip flexors and weakness in the glute muscles lead to problems with the QL. Yoga poses are great for helping to stretch and balance overall musculature; what is less known is that Pranayama (breathe control) techniques like Kapalabhati (shining skull breathing) effectively reduce low back tension in the QL as well various other accessory respiratory muscles. To bring the same breath into the Yoga pose practice can truly reduces lower back stiffness, imbalance and actually expands the back ribs a little more. While folding forward into a pose, breathe into the kidneys and let the expansion spread through the entire back and ribs. A gentle massage is given to the kidneys stimulating filtration. The space between the back ribs can open more than before allowing the lungs to fill to maximum capacity even when the front ribs are compressed while folding forward. This is a pleasant enjoyable feeling of light fullness that helps to reduce pressure or restraint that may be experienced if breathing into the back is missed. Of course, if the abdomen is distended, there will be pressure around the lower ribs and breath; the joy in the movement immediately diminished. The mind never forgets the joy it has known when the back is freely moving. If there is any discomfort or heaviness…an early morning practice when the stomach and bowels are empty may be a pivotal force in moving nearer to a feeling of pleasure while breathing through the low back. Practice makes better! Explore with your Yoga practicing breathing into the lower back in the various poses. May all beings be at peace and prosper. Namaste.