How do you breathe?
Are you a shallow neck and chest breather? Or do you breathe deeply through your diaphragm?

For the most part, most of us may not pay attention to the way that we breathe.

Breathing, similarly to moving, happens innately with very little thought thus generally doesn’t merit any specific attention.

But just like any action or function in our body that can range from being poor to optimal, the quality of our breathing is no different.

Belly Breathing

Did you know that belly breathing is the preferred method of breathing when at rest and while performing normal day to day activities?

Unless you are doing something strenuous, like lifting weights or exercising, you should be breathing in and out through your nose and belly…most of the time.

Belly breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing.

This way of breathing allows you to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of your sympathetic or “fight or flight” nervous system, and allows for you to down-regulate or de-stress.

Ever wonder why when you’re in a stressful situation or are upset, someone cues you to take a “deep breathe”…EXACTLY.

Additionally, breathing through your nose versus your mouth allows for the muscles of your neck, face and jaw to relax and creates resistance for your diaphragm to pull against, helping you take longer, deeper breaths.

Stressful Shallow Breathing

Unfortunately, in typical sitting populations (ie. Americans), our body’s adopt shallow neck breathing, which cues up our bodies fight or flight response.

This method of breathing is appropriate when you’re in a legitimate stressful situation not as your primary method of breathing.

No wonder you are having a hard time winding down and going to sleep…your body is interpreting the stressed shallow breathing as a signal to keep yourself on high alert.

You may be wondering what sitting all day has to do with adopting this method of breathing…

Well, having a rounded back/anterior head syndrome can compromise your ability to breathe fully and efficiently.

**Sidenote: If you are CPR certified, what is the first thing you are taught to do before you perform rescue breaths…assess the airway and tilt the chin back to open the airway to allow your breaths to travel fully into the body. ::ding…lightbulb::

anterior head syndrome

That moment when you collapse forward, your diaphragm becomes compressed and can’t function the way it was intended to.

As a result of this compromised shape, you are unable to take big, rhythmic breaths through your diaphragm resulting in compensatory short, shallow breaths through your neck and chest.


Blueprint for Breathing

Lie on the ground and place your hands on your belly, one on top of the other. To reduce tension in your trunk and low back, bend your legs and position your heels near your hips.

Graphic from Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World

Take a slow and steady breath in through your nose, directing the air into your belly. (Think about lifting your hands with your stomach, as you breathe in. When done correctly, your chest will remain still, your belly will expand, and your hands will rise.

Graphic from Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World

As you exhale, your hands should drop. The idea is to move your hands up and down using your breath.

Graphic from Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World

This is how you breathe diaphragmatically!

So, if you’re starting to get stressed and resorting back to that compromised shallow breathing pattern, check in with your breath. Take a two-minute break and get your breathing in check.

Tell us if you notice a change in your mood, feeling more relaxed or even sleeping better!