What is Lateral Breathing?

A big emphasis is made on lateral breathing in my Functional Breathing Program. What is it and why is it important? 

With any respiratory issue, the breathing pattern would shift, to some degree, from functional diaphragmatic breathing to chest breathing. By chest breathing, I mean engaging accessory breathing muscles as primary.

Accessory breathing muscles are your chest muscles, such as scalenes, trapezius, and sternocleidomastoid. This can also happen when there is excess weight, “lazy” diaphragm, weak spinal, and abdominal muscles.

Problems With Chest Breathing

During chest – or vertical – breathing, the chest visibly moves up and down, sometimes you can even notice slight upward shoulder movements. Overused sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, and trapezius muscles lead to tension headaches, sore neck, and shoulders, back pain.

Why Lateral Breathing Is Better

By contrast, with a lateral breathing pattern, the accessory breathing muscles do exactly what’s in the name – help the process, rather than take over the main players.

The main breathing muscles are the DIAPHRAGM and INTERCOSTALS. Visually, lateral breathing pattern presents as an outward movement of the lower ribs, as if the lower rib cage expands on the inhale and contracts on the exhale.

Check Your Breathing

To check the movement of your lower ribs, place your hands on the sides of your lower ribs – this is where your lungs have the most blood vessels, this is where the major gas exchange happens. When you breathe vertically, moving your chest, not utilising the lower lobes of the lungs, the blood chemistry suffers too.

So, while you stand with your hands on your lower ribs, breathe in and out and notice if there is any movement of the ribs. See if they can expand to the sides (laterally).

It can be quite challenging for people with habitual chest breathing pattern to switch to lateral breathing. There are certain stretches and exercises we can do in conjunction with breathing, which address this problem.

If you’re struggling with lateral breathing, and/or have some respiratory issues, the Functional Breathing Program is for you!

To find out more, book a free 15-minute consultation – www.oxygenrevolution.com.au

Happy breathing!