Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stuff I Learned #7

The Respiratory Pump
The heart serves as a pump for the blood, though this pump is inadequate to get all the blood from your legs back up to your heart/lungs to be refreshed. If you've ever found your calves and ankles swollen after sitting for awhile, you've had the firsthand experience of how the heart cannot lift the blood up and out of the legs by itself. Besides the heart, what returns this depleted blood back to the heart?

For a long time, it was thought that the contraction of skeletal muscles was the primary helper in pushing the depleted blood back to the heart. While it's true that the rhythmic contraction of skeletal muscle does push blood upstream and back to the heart, the rise and fall of the diaphragm is also a  significant contributor in pumping depleted blood back to the heart. In fact, UW researchers have recently published a report that the respiratory pump may actually return more blood to the heart than the skeletal muscle does!

So, what does this have to do with anything? The respiratory pump functions in the presence of diaphragmatic breathing. And diaphragmatic breathing is generally considered a go-to technique within the oeuvre of yoga practice.

In a blog posting I wrote more than 6-years ago, I discussed how the diaphragm moves during breathing, and common ways that its movement goes awry. In addition to the many benefits of healthy, diaphragmatic breathing on the autonomic nervous system, now it appears as though there are also direct benefits for the circulatory system, too!

Have a great week, and happy breathing!

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