Breathing is something that most of us do without thinking… and why would you? You breathe in, you breathe out, end of story right?
Well believe it or not there is a right and a wrong way to breathe, and most of us do it wrong.
Now that may come as a surprise to you, so let me explain.
There are essentially two types of breathing:
- Apical breathing
- And diaphragmatic breathing
The apical breath refers to a pattern of breathing that involves movement through your upper chest and neck. While a diaphragmatic breath, (say that three times fast!) uses your diaphragm muscle, (which also serves as a divider between your lungs and abdomen) the muscles between your ribs (aka your intercostals) and the muscles in your neck.
To give you a visual, here’s ???????? a great video that demonstrates these two types of breathing.
Okay I know what you’re thinking: “This is all well and good, but what is the ideal way to breathe?”
The answer? Diaphragmatic
So if you guessed that, you get a gold star. ????
Apical breathing is not the desired way to breathe for several reasons:
- When your breath is isolated using only the muscles of your upper chest and neck, those muscles are working harder to keep up with your breathing rhythm.
- You’re forced to have a more shallow breath because your diaphragm is not fully engaged, which causes you to compensate and breathe more frequently.
- Your rib cage also doesn’t expand to the amount needed to fully fill your lungs with air.
Let me explain the issue with that last point in a little more detail…
Instead of outwardly expanding like an inflating balloon, your rib cage elevates upwards towards your head. This process is inefficient and can even cause the muscles around your neck and shoulders to remain tense over time, which can lead to tension headaches or migraines.
If you suffer from either of those things, there’s a good chance you’re an apical breather. So you should ABSOLUTELY attend our upcoming Free Breathing Workshop, which Jen and I are hosting at BIM on Monday, November 7th at 6pm.
More details about that workshop can be found HERE, but you can also shoot me a message if you have questions about it.
Getting back to your breathing, more specifically the RIGHT way to breathe…
As mentioned, diaphragmatic breathing is the ideal way to breathe. Quite simply because it’s the most effective.
When you breathe diaphragmatically, more muscles are involved with each inhale and exhale. Your rib cage and diaphragm expand to accommodate air intake, and your breath is deeper and more efficient. Since it’s more efficient, your breathing frequency (respiration) will be lower than if would be if you were a chest breather (apical breathing).
Again, I know what you’re thinking (or at least, I think I do): “Great, but how do I know if I’m breathing right?”
The best way to find out if you’re an apical breather or an diaphragmatic breather is to assess yourself, or have a trainer assess you.
If that’s something that interests you, definitely don’t miss our workshop. We’ll be doing assessments onsite, as well as teaching you breathing techniques so that you can avoid common breathing-related issues, like…
- Poor uptake of oxygen
- Poor posture
- Chronic neck tension and headaches
- Tight hip flexors
- Decreased physical performance
- Decreased recovery time
- Increased stress and anxiety
- And poor sleep patterns
If self-assessment is something that interests you, here’s how to do it:
- Lay on your back with one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly button.
- Take 5 deep breaths and pay attention to which hand is moving the most.
What you’re looking to see is the hand on your belly moving upwards towards the ceiling during your inhalation, and downward during exhalation. While your hand on your chest has little to no movement. This will give you feedback as to where your breath is coming from.
If you find the hand on your chest is moving the most, it’s a sign you need to start practice your breathing through your diaphragm in order to break the pattern of chest breathing. To do this: Spend about 5-10 minutes 1-2 times per day practicing breathing from your belly. It doesn’t take long to practice, and overtime you can start to “reprogram” where your breath is coming from. Aiming for 7-15 breaths per minute is ideal. I you’re having a hard time reprogramming your breathing patterns, try resting a 5-10lbs plate on your belly after a few days of practicing to help stimulate your diaphragm muscle further.
A Tool For Stress Relief
Breathing with your chest can also be a sign that you’re stressed. Focusing on belly breathing can help to reduce this stress and return you to a restful state. It can also have a relaxing and calming effect, especially for the muscles around your neck and shoulders. I’ve even had a client fall asleep while practicing it… no joke.
Okay with that, I’ll leave you.
If you have questions about your breathing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to answer them for you. ????
Not sure if you’re breathing correctly and feel like you need help?
Join us for our upcoming Free Breathing Workshop on Monday, November 7th at 6pm. More information about that workshop can be found HERE.