(Excerpted from Your Body Mandala, Chap. 6, “Healthy Breathing.”)
In the breathing section of my first book, I used the term “fascial breathing” for an exercise in which I invited readers to sense the body-wide movement of breathing. This was in 1991, before scientific researchers had revealed the sensory capacity of fascia. Some early readers of Balancing Your Body had to take it on faith that respiration, occurring in the lungs, could be perceived anywhere and everywhere in the body. Today our capacity to feel such things is scientifically affirmed.
Fascial breathing is quite striking the first time you tune into it. It might even seem unnerving if you‘re not used to being so intimate with your aliveness. Fascial breathing makes it obvious that you’re alive in your body. This may touch your vulnerability, and remind you of your impermanence.
Each of your vertebrae rests within your fascial matrix. Your ligaments, tendons and spinal discs are all types of fascia. In normal inhalation the fascia stretches a tiny bit so the vertebrae can spread minutely apart from each other. This decompresses the spine. Next time you breathe in child pose, observe where along your spine you actually feel that movement. Most people will notice a few segments that don’t respond to the breath movement. In Chapters Nine and Ten you will learn options for changing the brain mapping of any stiff vertebrae. For now, simply observe them.