The aim of this exercise is to help to move from a more upper chest breathing pattern to one that uses the full capacity of the lungs. When under stress we can move towards breathing into the top of our lungs, with little movement happening at the bottom of the ribcage. This means we use the muscles at the front of the neck more than maybe helpful.
This exercise is a preliminary exercise to become comfortable with before moving on to the other parts: Head Retraction and Brügger Exercises
The breathing in this exercise should not be making you feel anxious, so if you start to feel odd or worried doing this exercise then please stop and go back to breathing as you normally would.
- Find a comfortable sitting or reclining position. You want to have the spine as long as possible, so that you’re not slumped over but also not straining to have a straight spine. You can do this in bed, but you also don’t want to be in danger of falling asleep.
- Place one hand at the top of the breast bone and one at the bottom of the ribs. Whilst not vital to the exercise this helps you become aware of how you are breathing.
- Purse your lips to breathe out. The next time you breathe out you bring your lips together as if you were whistling or blowing out a candle and slowly breathe out. I like to imagine that rather than blowing out the candle I’m trying to make the flame flicker for as long as possible.
- Empty your lungs as best you can. When we are chest breathing we can sometimes not empty the lungs as fully as we might. So with this exercise we are looking to focus on breathing out slowly and fully.
- Pause at the end of the out breath. Once you have fully breathed out, close your lips and pause for a count of one.
- Breathe in through your nose. You do not need to actually do anything special with your inhalation, just let it happen. Your body knows how to do it. This exercise is all about the exhalation and that is the focus, rather than doing anything fancy when you breathe in.
- Repeat steps 3-7 for 5 minutes.
How long to do it:
Ideally you want to do it for 5 minutes. However if this makes you anxious or uncomfortable then return to your normal breathing. You can build up to a longer period as you become more comfortable with it. It will be better to do just five breaths with comfort and ease than it would to struggle to do it for 5 minutes.
Twice a day is ideal: five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Then you can get on with your life in between. Over time your body will start to alter the breathing pattern it uses as it is being trained gently. However, if you suddenly become aware that your breathing is quite rapid and shallow, then you can do the exercise to help you alter your breathing, and hopefully feel calmer.
What to do next:
When you feel comfortable with this breathing exercise, you can move on to the Breathing exercises part 2 – head retraction.
Chaitow, L., Bradley, D, & Gilbert, C (2014) Recognizing and Treating Breathing
Disorders: A multidisciplinary approach (2nd Edition), Churchill Livingstone