Just Breathe

With the aroma of tea steeping in the background, Brian Lau presses his hand under a woman’s ribcage, compressing the tissue there. The volunteer revealed afterward that she was able to take a fuller breath.

Lau is a licensed massage therapist and an educator of tai chi and Chinese internal arts. He is also a certified therapist for structural integration. This was the motivating force behind Lau’s workshop, “The Anatomy of Breathing: Improve Your Health Through Better Breathing,” Friday night at Kaleisia Tea Lounge.

Structural integration is an alternative, holistic healthcare system addressing the body’s

myofascial tissue. This is basically the connective tissue that envelops all the organs, bones, nerves and muscles in a person’s body. Structural integration may help many different problems, like back and neck pain, shoulder tension, discomfort from sitting at a desk too long and repetitive stress issues such as Carpel Tunnel.

What does any of this have to do with breathing? Lau says “correct breathing opens the body up” and balances it. In a balanced body, the connective tissue has an even tension that holds the body in a relaxed, upright position.

According to Lau, restriction of breath is very common in busy Western society. People either can’t let go of their breath, so no exhale comes, or they get stuck in the exhale, which Lau calls belly breath. He professed that he isn’t a fan of telling people how to breathe properly, but says “a breath should be natural, relaxing, effortless and full.”

Regular practice of tai chi or yoga, says Lau, does not eliminate breathing problems, but will give you a leg up in preventing them. Many people, especially students, may not have the time or the money to invest in either of these practices, but some of the exercises Lau demonstrated at Kaleisia require only a little time.

Lau’s words of caution: Don’t focus too much on achieving better breathing. Think of these exercises more as meditations and “keep an air of detachment” or you’ll tense up and do more harm than good.