Dr Movement

A Breath Of Fresh Air

If I asked you what the most important nutrient was what would you say? Protein? Vitamins & minerals? Water? The last one would be a little closer but our muscles actually use oxygen as a fuel hence “Aerobic” exercise.

For this reason could it benefit us to look a bit further into our breathing techniques in order to breath better & more efficiently? Did you know that If we spread out the total surface area of our lungs they would cover a space as large as two tennis courts!

Most people in our modern day & age unfortunately do not utilize & use their tennis courts due to faulty breathing patterns; they breathe into the chest & not the belly by using the diaphragm muscle. This can be due to numerous reasons but is definitely not helped by our generally sedentary lifestyles.

By chest breathing we are only utilizing 2/3 of our lungs potential capacity & therefore hampering the delivery of our most important nutrient to our bodies. There is an old Indian belief that we have a finite number of breaths per lifetime so if this is correct we may be able to extend our lives by simply breathing more efficiently J

When we breathe diaphragmatically into the belly the diaphragm comes down & increases space in the chest cavity enabling us to us 100% of our lung capacity rather than 66%

Breathing diaphragmatically is the key to meditation & mindfulness. When you can be still & focus on the breath you can benefit massively, particularly if stressed. Whenever a thought comes in (which it will frequently) just note it & come back to the breath. Aim for 10 mins & build from there.

Due to the incorrect muscle sequencing that comes from chest breathing over time conditions such as neck pain & postural deviations can occur. An example being that the levator scapulae, which is a muscle linking the neck & shoulders to the head that raises the shoulder blades can become tight & overworked, which can cause pain causing more stress making the problem worse. The levator scapulae can also be known as the “stress buckets” due to them tightening under stress – have you ever noticed that when you are stressed your shoulders bunch up?

Also if that wasn’t enough chest breathing promotes a stress response in the body, which serves to elevate cortisol levels while nasal diaphragmatic breathing actually reduces cortisol, which reduces stress. How does a panicking person breath? Into the chest! What do people usually tell these people in an effort to calm down? BREEEEEAAAATHE!!!! We can actually change our biochemistry just through breathing!

How do I know if I am a chest breather? 

There are a few markers –

  • If you breathe a lot through the mouth you may be a chest breather.
  • If you look in the mirror & can see your shoulders move up & down then you are likely to be a chest breather.
  • If you have an underactive TVA (transversus abdominus, innermost layer of the abdominal wall) then there is a good chance that you will be a chest breather.
  • If you have a faulty TVA that won’t want to work due to an operation or digestive issue then there is a good chance you are a chest breather.
  • If you sit at a desk a lot of the time there is a good chance that you are a chest breather due to an underactive TVA

How do I become a diaphragmatic breather?

  • Breathe through the nose as much as possible – when nasal breathing we tend to use the diaphragm easier.
  • Breathe in front of the mirror JUST using your belly, in, out, in, out & watch for any raising of the shoulders. This may be tricky at first if not used to this style of breathing & also if you have an underactive TVA.
  • Practice! Repetition, repetition, repetition. It will take a little while to get into the habit of changing your breathing & you will need to keep reminding yourself – it took me about 2 weeks to recondition my own breathing but experienced a large reduction in stress levels as a benefit!

There is an old Indian belief that we have a finite number of breaths in our lifetime. Given that the main cause of aging is oxidisation (same reason food rots & metal rusts) or our contact with oxygen then these steps will add years onto your life! J

Imagine The Breath

Great for those with a busy mind to start a breath practice.

All you do is to imagine an image of the breath as you breathe – it could be an elevator going up a building or it could be drawing a circle – whatever feels the best for you.


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