Chest VS. Diaphragm Breathing

Chest VS. Diaphragm Breathing

"The human brain has an affinity towards habits. Repetitive behaviors become patterns and these patterns require reprogramming when they become problematic."  - Gray Cook, "Faulty Movement Patterns" 

 

When you think about building a house, the first logical step is to build a strong foundation. Only once you have built a solid, functional foundation, you begin to build the rest of the house, otherwise, it is all just going to come tumbling down. Makes sense, right?

Physiologically, your BREATH is the foundation of your body. The way in which you breathe sets the tone for how the rest of your body is going to think, feel, react, and perform. 

Here are a few quick points on the breath in connection with the body:

  • BREATHE THROUGH THE DIAPHRAGM, NOT THE CHEST:
    • Chest breathing can cause musculoskeletal compensations, poor posture, and faulty movement patterns (Garcia, 2014)
      • rounded shoulders
      • elevated shoulders
      • back and chest pain
      • forward head
  • SLOW DOWN! 
    • Aim for 6-10 breaths per minute
    • Rapid breathing can create an imbalance of CO2 and Oxygen
    • Stressed, rapid breathing can stimulate secondary muscles to overwork, creating a fight or flight response (Garcia, 2014)

TAKE HOME POINT:

Shallow, rapid breathing through your chest = physiological imbalances, compensations, pain, stress. Concentrate on correcting faulty breathing patterns with slow, rhythmic breathing through your diaphragm.

WHY DO I HAVE A FAULTY BREATHING PATTERN?

This list could be a mile long, but here are a few factors that could be contributing to shallow, rapid breathing from the chest! Don't be so hard on yourself, most of us have faulty breathing patterns and the way we currently live does not do us any favors! Another question to ask yourself when you see this list..."what came first, the chicken or the egg?" Again, nothing to be hard on yourself for... just a point to show that MIND, BODY, and SOUL are WICKED CONNECTED. 

  • Mental/Emotional: anxiety, stress, depression, self-image, self-doubt, worry, fear, heavy-heart, lack of confidence, being in a state of fight-or-flight, feeling uncomfortable, feeling unsafe
  • Physical: being sedentary for long periods of time, working long hours, overuse, underuse, nutritional behaviors, chemical stressors, being too hot or too cold for long periods of time, posture while being on our gadgets, hormonal imbalances, poor posture with activities of daily living, poor posture with exercise, and drawing in your stomach to indent. 

A HUGE TREND I have seen lately in group fitness classes is drawing the stomach in to indent.  To illustrate what this looks like, check out this video of me spinning on a stationary bike while sucking in my stomach, which makes me breathe rapidly and shallowly through my CHEST. Watch my neck and shoulders during this clip, and compare it to the next video. You can probably already guess... my back, neck and shoulders round and my good posture goes out the window. You can also see that I bounce around on the bike with poor form.

Now, check out a clip of me spinning while breathing through my DIAPHRAGM. I allowing my abdominal muscles to fully relax, and I am filling my belly with deep, rhythmic breaths. Notice that my spine is neutral, my shoulders are back and down, and I am maintaining decent posture on the bike, despite the challenging workload. 

Putting it All Together: CHEST VS. DIAPHRAGM AWARENESS EXERCISE  

This is a really great and simple awareness exercise to assess if you predominately utilize your chest or diaphragm to breathe (Garcia, 2014). Check out this video for step by step instructions and and try it out! 
 

THE FIRST STEP TO CHANGING FAULTY BEHAVIORS AND PATTERNS IS AWARENESS! 

 

Erin M. Kershaw, M.S., ACSM-HFS
Wellness Director, The Edge Fitness Center at the Ascutney Mountain Resort