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How to do something 22K times a day, well

The WHY & HOW of Breath Training

You breathe approximately 22,000 times a day and more than 8 million times in a year. INHALE... EXHALE... REPEAT... for the rest of your life.

How you breathe affects your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Your breath is inextricably linked to your physiology and psychology.

Anatomy of the breath

The primary muscle of respiration, the diaphragm, attaches to the xiphoid process, lower ribs and lumbar vertebrae. It is in direct contact with the heart, lungs and upper part of the esophagus in the thoracic cavity above the diaphragm, and the lower esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys, in the abdominal cavity below the diaphragm.

With each inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, lowering the intrathoracic pressure to intake air. With each exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its dome shape, forcing air back out. This process repeats 22,000 times (or more!) a day.

By training the inspiratory and expiratory muscles you increase their strength and endurance, hence lessening their workload at intense exercise, allowing for proper blood flow to all active muscles and maximizing both respiratory and physical performance.

Some of the benefits of breath training (Respiratory Muscle Training) include:

  • Greater lung capacity and resistance.

  • Re-education of breathing coordination and muscle synergy

  • Decrease perception of breathlessness

  • Improvement in sports performance

  • Improvement in strength and endurance of diaphragm and respiratory muscles

  • Reduction in respiratory muscle metaboreflex (the body restricts blood flow to the limbs when breathing muscles fatigue - when the body experiences a conflict between breathing and moving, breathing wins)

Getting started with breath training

  1. Sit or lie down with a neutral pelvis and long spine. Keep your gaze straight ahead to keep your neck and head aligned.

  2. Notice your inhale and exhale. Where do you feel it - nostrils, chest, ribs, belly? How does it feel - fast/slow, choppy/smooth?

  3. Begin to lengthen and even out your inhale and exhale, perhaps counting to four on the in-breath and four on the out-breath. If any force or strain occurs, return to your natural breathing.

  4. Bring your attention to your rib cage and as you breathe in, feel your ribs expanding 360 degrees like a balloon or an umbrella opening. As you exhale, draw your navel toward your spine and grow tall as you release the air. Repeat this several times keeping your focus on the rib cage expanding laterally as you breathe in and growing tall as you breathe out. Work your way up to practicing this 5 minutes a day.

  5. Join me for a Low Pressure Fitness (LPF) series to gain support in your training. In addition to respiratory and postural training, LPF offers myofascial stretching and neurodynamic mobilization.

  6. Add in a breath trainer, a small device with a dial to create resistance on the in-breath and out-breath. I use the EOLOS breath trainer. See the EOLOS website for more details and exercises.

If you have questions, contact me. I'm here to support you to live your best life, one breath at a time.


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