Breathing patterns

If you watch a little baby breathing you will notice a lot of movement in the belly that is because babies use their diaphragm as the primary muscle of respiration . As we get older and are exposed to life  and stress many of us become chest breathers and use the scalenes , upper traps , pecs , sterno cliedo mastoids as our primary muscles of respiration . The muscles i have mentioned are definitely breathing muscles but only really in times of stress like having to run for your life ,the ribs need to be forcefully pulled up to allow the lungs to inflate even more to provide the body with extra oxygen .

The problem with this breathing pattern is that it puts us into a high threshold strategy and we end up with constant tightness and pain in the above mentioned muscles . Massage feels good but it does not address the root cause of the problem .We need to be able to assess our clients breathing and if we find that they are indeed chest breathers  then combined with massage we will teach them how to reverse the pattern and use their diaphragm as the primary breathing muscle .

Next time you are in a challenging stretch try to cycle a breath from your belly make it long and deep .If you find your jaw clenching and neck muscles working back off until you can belly breath , your breath will let you know if you own a stretch or are simply surviving the position .

Some negative effects of being a chest breather .

  • Tight pec minor causes internally rotated shoulders .
  • Overworked neck muscles limit movement and cause headaches .
  • Chest breathing pulls the thoracic spine into kyphosis and limits shoulder range of movement .
  • Diaphragm and core muscles become weak , posterior chain becomes inhibited and hip flexors tight and dominant .
  • Rib cage is compressed , breathing is shallow leading to a drop in blood pH and a state of stress .
  • Especially postpartum women a weak pelvic floor and incontinence .
  • No intra abdominal pressure , weak core and unsupported lower back .
  • Flared lower ribs leading to lordosis and overactive hip flexors and glutes that do not work .

Breathing asessment .




Breathing corrections .


I often hear coaches being interviewed or sportsmen and women after the match .Often they will say that they need to go back to the basics. Bruce lee famously said “be brilliant at the basics ”

Breathing is a fundamental movement , when it  goes wrong it  will cause all sorts of dysfunction up and down the chain .If we can start to assess breathing patterns i think we will come a lot closer to finding the source of pain and dysfunction instead of always treating the site .

Check back next time for more progressions and some hands on therapy to help correct chest breathing patterns .