Discovering 3 different types of breathing

Principles of Practice

Everyday breathing follows an automatic and unconscious pattern, as we have seen, but fortunately we also have the possibility of controlling and modifying our breathing patterns.

It is easy to make breathing conscious if we use our will. This way, we control our breathing and if necessary we modify it by changing rhythm, amplitude, and depth of breaths. We can also suspend it for a short amount of time.

Practicing the conscious breathing exercises of pranayama allows us to recondition the respiratory rhythm and positively influencing automatic breathing.

These are the three types of breath:


Clavicular breathing (how we typically breathe):
Place the hands on the upper region of the chest, under the clavicles. Slowly inhale focusing your attention on the region located just below your hands and feel how the clavicles are elevated and the upper region of the rib cage expands slowly at the end of the inhalation.

We should use this breathing in the last phase of inhalation during deep breaths when the inhaled air fills the lower parts of the lungs first. Then it fills the medial regions and lastly, during the final phase of inhalation, it fills the upper regions of the lungs.

Sadly, nine out of 10 adults in the US are only chest breathers.

Thoracic breathing:

Place the hands over the lower sides of the thorax with fingers pointing towards the sternum and take our breath towards the hands.

While inhaling, feel how the volume of the rib cage expands and opens towards the sides of the body, the intercostal muscles stretch out when air enters the lungs and your hands are gently pushed to the sides. When exhaling, the opposite happens. The intercostal muscles return to their normal size and the rib cage

Diaphragmatic breathing:
Lie down on your back. Then place both hands on your stomach with fingers pointing towards the belly button.

You must concentrate on your breath and become aware of the contact of the hands on your body and the sensation of heat they produce in this area. Inhale through the nose, sending the air towards the belly. Observe that air fills the lower parts of the lungs and feel how the abdomen inflates because of the push of the diaphragm while also pushing the hands upwards. The ribs must stay still and we must not let the air rise towards the upper region of the lungs. While exhaling, the opposite movement is performed: the belly button descends towards the lumbar area while the belly deflates. Breathe in this way for several cycles allowing this particular breathing technique to become more fluid.

By © Sophie Favarel
Essential Anatomy Manual

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