Unless you've had serious breathing issues like asthma, pneumonia, severe allergies etc, most people don't give their breathing habits a second thought. Without getting too technical, I would like to share why chest breathing needs to be addressed if you want to obtain abundant energy, vitality, clarity and joy from each breath.
Chest breathing is characterised by an outward, upward movement of the chest wall. Many people get into the habit of breathing only with their chests. In fact, 90% of us are chest breathers with the biggest contributors owing to restrictive clothing, poor posture, stress, and conditions that weaken the muscles involved in breathing.
Chest breathing requires the body to work much harder because the rib cage is being lifted and secondary breathing muscles are engaged in order to accomplish the same blood gas mixing than with diaphragmatic breathing. This means more tension in the shoulders, neck, chest and upper back; as well as greater oxygen requirements resulting in more frequent breaths.
Chest breathing is natural and useful during vigorous exercise but it is quite inappropriate for ordinary, everyday activity.
When we breathe primarily in the chest we stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight response that occurs when we are aroused by external or internal challenges or danger. As a result, chest breathing is associated with other symptoms of arousal like tension and anxiety. Since there is a reciprocal relationship between breathing and the mind, chest breathing, if continued during rest periods, will lead to tension and anxiety, thus creating a vicious circle.
In addition to this, research shows that chest breathers have a higher risk of heart disease, among other serious health conditions
Chest breathers are seldom aware of their breath pattern and commonly breathe in a shallow, jerky and unsteady manner, resulting in unsteadiness of the mind and emotions. Without realising the root cause lies in their breath pattern, chest breather's often resign to living with their symptoms or seek medications and interventions.
We are often unaware of our breath pattern unless our breathing becomes extremely difficult or radically discordant. Without retraining ourselves to breathe using a deep, even, and steady diaphragmatic breath pattern efforts to relax the body, nerves and mind will be ineffective.
If you would like to have a breath analysis and learn to build a healthy relationship with your breath, I am offering my popular workshop, Breathe Into Being on Saturday Feb 23rd from 10:00-12:30. I am also available for 1-1 Discover Your Breath and/or Transformational Breath® sessions.
Danielle Satya Parla
Here I share more about what I love: breath, yoga, ayurveda, psychology, energy medicine & Mother Earth.