Lateral breathing in dogs
Lateral breathing is often not included when we talk about breathing. We think of mouth breathing and nose breathing; chest breathing and diaphragmatic – belly – breathing. I use palmar breathing; and that’s demonstrated at https://youtu.be/EQPlxRXx9bw
Lateral breathing includes the functioning of the structures on the sides of the dog: the ribs, the flank, the obliques, etc. the whole body breathes; not just the lungs and ribs. When there are restrictions in any of these areas, dogs cannot get enough air for their bodies to work.
This is especially significant with dogs that are obese. We can see the strain all that extra weight puts on the joints. There’s strain on the spine supporting the weight from above, and also restricted movement of the packed in diaphragm. Visualize the mass of the belly bulk pressing into the fascia holding the thorocolumbar region of fascia. The fascia clamps against the thorax. We can readily see that any excess in padding reduces lateral breathing.
Canine massage and bodywork address the physical and emotional restrictions that impact the inability of the dog’s body to access and process breath.
I recently attended a workshop in which I was instructed to focus on my lateral breathing. This was a new exercise for me. I immediately noticed restrictions and severe discomfort in my left side rib cage. Spontaneously, I recalled a trauma that I had forgotten. I was swimming my horse across a river and as he kicked out one time, his hoof caught me in the ribs. The wind was knocked out of me and I needed to cling to his neck to make it to shore.
That was over 30 years ago. The memory of that accident was still in my intercostals! That evening and the next day I was very sore. On the second day, my lateral breathing was full and complete. I needed to be guided in my breath work. And now, I am finally healed from that experience.
Dogs, whether they are obese or have lived full, active, trauma-inclusive lives, need to be able to breath fully and easily. Some, like me, are not aware that their breathing has been restricted. They have learned to adapt. Cope. Compensate or deduce expectations. Repress.
This is the perfect venue to use Positional Release. Positional Release is a massage technique that helps dogs identify and resolve restrictions. It’s a way to facilitate them in their resolution of physical and energetic traumas.
During your canine massage, observe the movements of the dog’s rib cage and flank both visually and through palpation. You are both in this together, so pay attention to your rib cage and flank, as well. Notice if you feel restrictions, pain, openness, or comfort. If you feel discomfort in your sides or back, stretch and rub the sore areas with the backs of your fists.
The two of you can work together and recover your breath.
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