And it is for this reason that there are many ways to breathe:

  • chest breathing
  • belly breathing
  • 360degrees all around your ribcage
  • any combination of the above

When stressed, we tend towards chest breathing, high, fast and shallow (often accompanied by an open mouth). The chest and shoulders are elevated and the neck muscles are working overtime. These muscles are our  ‘accessory’ breathing muscles. Accessory because they should only be used when necessary. This is why accessory rhymes with necessary… When overworked unnecessarily you can expect symptoms ranging from headache to teeth grinding and dizziness. So, do your accessories a favour, shut your mouth, relax your jaw and carry on reading… 🙂

When lying down, the most relaxing way to breathe is the belly breath. When sitting or standing belly breathing is not so appropriate as your belly muscles are necessary for maintaining the integrity of your lumbar spine. (Please do not confuse naturally functioning abdominal strength with tension! Any sucking in or bracing of the belly is equal to tension. More on this another day). Every time you shove your belly out for a breath, you are messing with the natural function of your belly muscles and creating weird pressures around your diaphragm. This in turn passes the pressure on downwards towards the pelvic floor. Which in turn has to deal with this unnecessary tension by… become more tense. Ugh.

The ribs on the other hand, the lovely, lovely ribs are curiously formed in a 360degree form encasing the LUNGS. The ribs have muscles spanning between each other which give them the ability to twist up and wide and create space for the lungs to expand. Your ribs (costals) and their intercostal muscles allow your shoulders and neck to relax and save your pelvic floor and diaphragm from all sorts of strange pressures. Your ribs, when stacked and moving with your breathing will actually allow your core muscles to return to their original intended state. The state of relaxed and coordinated strength.


  • adaptation: hyperkyphosis
  • ‘good posture’, aka military posture, aka rib thrust
  • stress: stiff neck, shoulders and rib-thoracic vertebrae connections that have become rusted like an old bike chain.

Hyperkyphosis and rib thrust: wearing shoes and hours upon hours of sitting tightens the back line of our body, from our feet all the way up past the calves, hamstrings, spine, neck, over the skull and forehead to the eyebrows! Check out Thomas Myers’ work – the superficial back line – for more on this.  This lack of length and too much tension flings the upper body forward when walking and to save us loosing face – ie  falling flat on our face – our body compensates with even more tension. We lift our ribs to counter the fall, the belly lengthens and the lower back becomes short and tight and eventually painful. The thoracic spine slowly adapts into a quasi-quasimodo 😦 If this did not occur your head would be a 1/2 meter behind you instead of 1/2 meter in front of you. Get it?

And not to mention the stress created by inappropriate reactions to the biological needs of our body: too little sleep and too many stimulants, poor food, too much noise, an argument, a shocking event, it all adds up. Especially when we have been ignoring these signals for many years. At a certain point our wonderful bodies will tell us in no uncertain terms that it is time to pay attention. Maybe with a panic attack, hyperventilation or a body that is aching…


Next time: What else can you do to breathe BETTA???

love Mina & Lucie


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