How to Check if your Breathing is OK
“Diagnosis is nine tenths of the cure.”
It constantly surprises me that so few people who come to see me don’t know how to breathe properly. If you find this difficult you will be in good company. You’d think that everyone would know how to breathe, after all we all depend on it for our very lives. Many people find this counter intuitive.
For this exercise you will need a full-length mirror or one that shows at least your whole torso.
- Stand in front of the mirror with your legs shoulder width apart. This ensures that you are well balanced
- Place one hand on your chest and the other over your belly button
- Relax and focus on your breathing. Watch the way your body moves in the mirror. It’s good to spend a couple of minutes doing this.
- When you are relaxed take a deep breath and hold it. What did you notice?
- Let the breath out slowly. What did you notice?
1. Chest and shoulder rise and fall as you breathe in and out
If your chest and shoulders rise you need to focus on keeping your shoulders still and pushing your breath down into your stomach.
2. Shoulders stay still but your chest rises
This is better. Focus on pushing your breath down further by engaging your diaphragm.
3. Only the stomach rises as you breathe in and falls as you breathe out
This is better, however, you need to allow your chest to expand as your lungs fill.
4. Your stomach sinks as you breathe in and rises as you breathe out
Counter intuitively your stomach should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Think of it like filling and emptying a balloon.
5. Ideally stomach and chest rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out
As you breathe in, your stomach rises first and then your chest rises
As you breathe out, your chest falls first and then your stomach sinks
If you haven’t got it right to begin with don’t despair! We’ll fix it. First try repeating the exercise and concentrate on keeping your shoulders still. Sometimes it helps if someone puts their hands on your shoulders.
If you find that you are struggling to move your stomach out, a trick I use is to place a belt around your nipple line. Expand your chest as much as you can and then fasten the belt. The trick is to keep the belt from slipping down by just breathing into your stomach.
If you’re still having trouble, never fear! It’s not uncommon for people to have trouble with this. Move onto the next topic where we will learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique.