Breathing 2.0

In 101 Ways to Live Well: Tips 1-3 the very first tip is “Breathe deeper.” Why is this so important that out of 101 tips this one is the very first? Simple.

Breathing impacts everything: the entire musculoskeletal system, posture and alignment of the spine, the nervous system, the circulatory system…in short, it impacts every cell and every system in the body. Breathing is critical in the treatment of spinal stability, musculoskeletal pain, chronic fatigue and anxiety. Prevent these by learning to breathe correctly BEFORE they become an issue.

While it is true that humans innately know how to breathe, fully functional breathing is not a given. Breathing can be influenced over the years positively or negatively; we form habits that will keep us healthy or contribute to our health decline.

There are three very common bad breathing habits:

Mouth breathing: Breathing through the mouth reduces available air space, forcing other muscles to make up the difference. To compensate, mouth breathers begin to lean forward with the head and shoulders–causing neck, shoulder, and upper back pain, as well as misalignment that infringes on the nervous system. Furthermore, mouth breathing disrupts the pH of the blood, tending to make it more alkaline. Blood that is too alkaline is directly associated with chronic pain conditions, and, on its own, it can cause apprehension, anxiety and panic attacks.

Paradoxical breathing: Breathing is paradoxical when the exact opposite pattern from proper breathing occurs (the stomach is drawn in during the inhale and released during the exhale). Pulmonary disease can be a cause of paradoxical breathing, but one of the most common causes is cultural: everyone wants a flat stomach (to fit in our clothes we “suck in” our bellies.) Unfortunately if we continue to mistakenly pursue a six pack by breathing incorrectly it can lead to lower back pain, spinal dysfunction, anxiety and incontinence.

Vertical breathing: Normal breathing is called “horizontal” because the abdomen is released with exhalation and drawn in with inhalation. “Vertical” breathing refers to the lifting up of the collar bones, shoulders, and upper rib cage upon the inhale, instead of the proper release of the abdomen. During strenuous physical activity, it is true that the upper rib cage will move, but this is not good for normal breathing during the day. And shoulders should definitely not be connected with breathing. Vertical breathing can cause neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, lower back pain and instability.

Stand in front of a mirror and observe yourself breathing. Do you have one of these habits? Or perhaps, more than one of these habits? The bad news is that this simple habit may have caused you heartache (err…body ache) for years. The good news is that with a little discipline, proper breathing is perfectly attainable!

Here is an easy exercise to encourage good breathing habits:

Before you go to sleep at night, place one hand on your upper chest and one hand on your navel. Gently push out your navel toward the ceiling as you take a relaxed, slow, deep breath in through your nose, and feel the hand on your abdomen rise. Exhale and feel the hand on your abdomen descend. While you may feel the vibrations from movement of air on the hand on your chest, it should not be lowered or raised with each breath. Breath correctly consciously for a few minutes and continue to breath correctly as your drift off to sleep.

Be aware of your breathing! During the day, check to make sure you are not mouth breathing, vertically breathing, or paradoxically breathing.

So breathe easy–put some of these ideas into place in your daily life and reap the rewards for your effort!

If you have any comments questions about breathing exercises or deep breathing, please comment below or email


~ by danclaps on July 17, 2012.

6 Responses to “Breathing 2.0”

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