You are on page 1of 20

what’s inside

:
Breathing Tutorial
By: Vaughn Gray

Reducing Inflammation
By: Roger Maxwell

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 1
Table of Contents
Breathing Tutorial 3
The Basics of Proper Breathing 3
Poor Breathing Equals More Stress 5
Poor Breathing Also Distorts Posture 6
Learning to Breathe Right 8
Integrating Breathing with Proper Abdominal Movements 10
A Habit of Good Breathing 12
Complement Your Breathing Exercise by “De-Training” Your Traps 13
Summing Things Up 16

Reducing Inflammation 17
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E Can Stop the Pain 17
Fish Oil Capsules 17
Vitamin E 18

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 2
Breathing Tutorial
By: Vaughn Gray Updated: 10/28/2009

The Basics of Proper Breathing
One of the easiest things most people can do to improve their health,
energy levels, and even their general mood is to learn how to breathe properly.
It may come as a surprise to you that it’s possible to breathe improperly, but
the fact of the matter is that just about everyone in America has less than
perfect breathing technique. So what is proper breathing technique? A proper
breath is taken through the nose into the stomach using the muscles of the
diaphragm. People in less developed countries don’t need to be taught to
breathe this way because they do it naturally from birth. In fact, all of us should naturally breathe
into our stomach using the diaphragm. So why don’t we?

Strange as it sounds, the reason that most Americans breathe into their chests and not into
their stomachs is because we spend so much of our days seated. Sitting crunches down on
the diaphragm (your primary breathing muscle) and turns it off. With your diaphragm turned
off, you start to breathe through your mouth into your chest using the muscles of your neck and
shoulders, which really aren’t meant to be used for breathing regularly.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 3
We’re able to breathe with the muscles of our chest and neck because
they’re designed for “accessory breathing”. By accessory breathing we
mean that chest breathing (raising the shoulders and chest to get air
into the lungs) is only meant to assist diaphragmatic breathing when
you’re out of breath. During a sprint, for instance, when you’re gasping
for breath, a proper breath will start with the diaphragm contracting to fill
the lower lungs. Once the lower lungs are full, the muscles of the neck
and shoulders will contract, causing the chest to rise up and fill the upper
lungs.

Look in a mirror and take a deep breath. Focus on your shoulders.
Do they rise up when you inhale? If so, you’re like most people – a
chest breather. If your shoulders did rise there’s a good chance that
your shoulders are chronically tight and you frequently develop knots in
your shoulders and neck. This tension in your shoulders is being caused
partially by the way you breathe. Better breathing, along with an exercise
that we’ll cover at the end of this tutorial, will help alleviate shoulder
and neck knots and tightness. Most people attribute tight shoulders to
psychological stress, and they’re not wrong. But stress is only part of
the picture. And further, poor breathing habits actually create increased
stress.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 4
Poor Breathing Equals More Stress
Poor breathing technique results in increased stress primarily because it limits the amount
of oxygen that can be taken up by the lungs. Your body gets oxygen out of your lungs through
capillaries - the thin blood vessels throughout the lungs that allow gases to flow into and out of
your blood. These capillaries are about ten times as dense in the lower lungs as they are in
the upper lungs. A chest breath only fills the upper lungs with air. As a result, the oxygen you
breathe in during a chest breath doesn’t get to the area of the lungs where it can be efficiently
absorbed.

Take a full breath concentrating on filling your stomach and chest with air. Let it out slowly. It’s
relaxing, right? Oxygen exerts a calming effect on the body. When people are highly stressed
oxygen can be administered to help them relax. This is one of the main reasons that EMT’s give
oxygen to people when they arrive on the scene of an emergency – to calm them down. Higher
oxygen levels in the blood create shifts in brain chemistry that leave you feeling relaxed and at
peace. The reverse is also true. Low levels of oxygen in the blood increases the levels of stress
chemicals in the brain. Even mild oxygen deprivation can, over time, leave you feeling tense,
anxious and fatigued. If you are a chronic chest breather, the odds are you’re walking around
every day mildly starved for oxygen.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 5
In addition to increasing stress levels, lower blood oxygen makes pretty much everything in
your body work more poorly– from your immune system, to detoxification processes in your liver,
to mental functions. Chronic oxygen deprivation due to poor breathing habits is also associated
with dramatically increased incidences of migraine and tension headaches.

The stress caused by chronic oxygen deprivation isn’t limited to the mental sphere. This stress
also results in the physical manifestations of tension, as muscles are held tighter, contributing to
painful knots in the back and shoulders. Stress from poor breathing can even promote weight
gain, since the body chemicals associated with stress, such as cortisol, tend to promote fat
storage.

Poor Breathing Also Distorts Posture
If you’re not yet convinced that you need to learn to breathe right, here’s another good
reason: Since the muscles of your shoulders aren’t built to work as breathing muscles all of the
time, using them this way overstresses them. Overstressed muscles develop knots, and get
short and tight. In addition to being painful, short tight shoulder muscles can also distort your
posture. When your upper back and shoulder muscles get tight, they rotate your arms inward
and pull your shoulders forward. This causes your upper spine to bend forward. Your head
follows along, and also moves forward. These patterns of postural distortion can then contribute
to neck and back pain, in addition to just plain looking bad. Poor posture is endemic these days,

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 6
and bad breathing technique is a big part of the cause. Changing the way you breathe won’t
immediately improve your posture in and of itself, but it will help prevent your posture from
getting worse. Once you start breathing properly, most postural distortion patterns you do have
can be easily corrected with exercise. Check out our Improving Posture and Alignment tutorial
for more.

Breathing seems like such a simple, innocuous thing that it’s hard to believe improper
breathing techniques can cause so many problems. But, ultimately, everything our
bodies do depends on oxygen, so it isn’t really surprising that our bodies should
be so sensitive to blood oxygen levels. In addition, we take over 25,000 breaths
per day. With so many repetitions, it makes sense that any problems with the
mechanics of breathing can have profound effects on
the health of the muscles involved. (Imagine what
doing 25,000 improper biceps curls each day would
do to yoru arm muscles)

Hopefully we’ve convinced you that learning
how to breathe properly is worth your while.
So how do you get started?

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 7
Learning to Breathe Right
As discussed, a proper breath is taken into the stomach using the muscles of the diaphragm.
The first step to learning how to breathe into your stomach is to gain control over the diaphragm
and the other muscles of your abdominal wall. You can begin practicing controlling your abdominal
wall with an exercise called the tummy vaccum.

Perform the tummy vaccum on all four with your wrists held directly under your shoulders
anPerform the tummy vaccum on all four with your wrists held directly under your shoulders

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 8
and your knees directly under your hips. Keep your spine straight, being careful not to arch your
lower back. Begin the tummy vaccum by letting your abdominal wall fall towards the ground. Try
to expand your abdomen as much as possible, like kids do when making a “big belly”.

While expanding your abdomen towards the floor try not to move your lower back. When
you’ve expanded your abdomen as far as you can (Position 1), reverse this motion, and suck
your stomach in as far as you can. When you’ve drawn your stomach in as far as possible
(Position 2), switch directions again, dropping your abdominal wall back towards Position 1,
Repeat this sequence for a few minutes a few times per day to gain better control over your
abdominal muscles.

It’s best to perform the tummy vaccum in front of a mirror so you can watch your form. Do
this exercise shirtless or in a sports bra so you can see your stomach and back in the mirror. Try
to focus on letting your abdomen fall down towards the ground without moving your back in any
way. Most people initially have a tough time dropping their abdomen down without moving their
lower back (if you look closely, our model arched her lower back in the photo in Position 1 - try
not to!!!). You don’t have to get it perfect the first time, but you should concentrate on moving
your lower back as little as possible.

In addiiton, try to make the movement in the tummy vaccum as smooth as possible. At first,

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 9
your abdominal wall may move up and down in fits and starts. Try to keep the motion slow and
even. Once you’ve got the hang of moving your abdominal wall in and out smoothly, you’re
ready to integrate this motion with breathing.

Integrating Breathing with Proper Abdominal Movements
Start integrating proper breathing with the right abdominal movements by blowing all they air
out of your lungs by pulling your stomach in as far as it will go (Position 2).

Hold this position for a second, then release your abdominal wall down towards the floor
(Move to Position 1) . As your stomach wall falls down toward the floor breathe in slowly through

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 10
your nose. Think about aiming your breath low into your stomach, filling your belly with air like a
balloon. Fill your lower lungs to capacity by expanding your abdomen fully. As you do so, try not
to let your chest and shoulders rise up towards your head, filling your upper lungs with air. When
your your belly is as expanded as you can make it, meaning your lower lungs are full -(Position
1), pause for a second, then start to exhale by drawing your belly button up and in back towards
Position 2, actively pushing air out of your lungs using your stomach muscles like a bellows.

Through all of this keep looking in the mirror, staying conscious of not moving your back or
shoulders in any way. Be especially aware of any tendency to contract your shoulders and neck
muscles to draw breath into your chest. The idea here is to breathe using the diaphragm alone.
Your chest should never rise up during this exercise

Once you’re comfortable breathing like this on all fours, where gravity is assisting you in
dropping your belly down, start practicing belly breathing standing up by alternately expanding
and contracting your abdominal wall to draw air in and then blow air out in the exact same
fashion. For a few days, practice in front of a mirror, continuing to pay attention to your lower
back and hold it still. After this, start trying to breathe into your diaphragm all of the time, staying
especially consicious of breathing diaphragmatically while seated. In order to breathe with your
diaphragm while seated, you’ll have to sit up straight, which will have the side benefit of helping
you begin to develop better posture. You goal is to get to the point where you start breathing
into your diaphragm as a matter of habit without thinking about it.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 11
A Habit of Good Breathing
The way that movements become habitual is through the
establishment of motor programs for those movements in our
brains. Research indicates that it take about 500 repetitions to
write a new movement program, but about 5,000 repetitions to
rewrite one that is already established. Since most of us have
been chest breathing for a good part of our lives, it takes a lot of
repetitions to completely change our breathing patterns to the
point where diaphragmatic breathing becomes instinctive. But
if you try to remember to breathe diaphragmatically throughout
the day, 5,000 reps will pass in no time, and proper breathing
will become unconscious and habitual.

When you’re first getting started, practice diaphragmatic
breathing on your hands and knees at least five to ten minutes,
three times per week. You can do this breathing exercise as a
part of regular workouts, or anytime throughout the day. Feel
free to practice breathing even more frequently if you like. The
more you practice, the faster you’ll develop the habit of proper
breathing. You really can’t overdo breating exercises.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 12
Complement Your Breathing Exercise by “De-Training” Your Traps
“Detraining” a muscle may not sound like something you’d ever
want to do (We’re pretty sure we made the word up actually), but the
fact of the matter is that when certain muscles get too big, too strong,
or too active, they can actually do our bodies harm. Nowhere is this
more true than in the upper trapezius. The upper trapezius is the large
muscle above your collar bones that you use to shrug your shoulders.
It is one of the major muscles of accessory breathing. As discussed
in the beginning of this tutorial, when accessory breathing muscles
are used to breathe all of the time, they get overworked. The upper
trapezius responds to being overworked by becoming shorter, tighter,
thicker, and developing knots. All of these effects not only distort
posture, they also actually make it harder to breathe properly.

Short overdeveloped muscles undergo a process called
“facilitation”. What this means is that as these muscles are worked
more and more frequently, they tend to contract more and more easily
with less and less stimulation from the nervous system. Most people’s
upper traps are highly facilitated, meaning they fire on a hair trigger.
As a result, many people find it hard to stop breathing with their

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 13
traps by raising their chests up, even when they are concentrating on trying to breathe with the
diaphragm.

Fortunately there is a way to “detrain” muscles. Simply stated, you detrain a muscle by
working its antagonist. Most of the muscles in the body have antagonists. Muscles are antagonists
to each other when they perform opposite actions at the same joint. For instance, the biceps
and triceps are antagonists. The biceps flex the arm while the triceps extend the arm. When
you exercise a given muscle, that muscle actually shuts off its antagonist. This is an important
effect. If the biceps didn’t shut off the triceps during a biceps curl, you wouldn’t be able to lift as
much weight because the triceps would actually resist the biceps’ action. Over time, training the
antagonist of any given muscle can actually reverse facilitation.

All of this might sound a bit complicated in theory, but it’s charmingly simple in practice.The
traps shrug the shoulders up. Therefore the antagonists of the traps must push the shoulders
down. The primary muscle that does this is called the serratus anterior. The name isn’t important.
The real question is how do you train it!

You train the serratus anterior (turning off the traps and defacilitating them) by doing what is,
essentially, an “anti-shrug” (forgive another linguistic sin). In a shrug you raise your shoulders up
towards your ears. An anti-shrug (or, more formally, a “straight arm dip”) involves pushing your

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 14
shoulders down, moving your shoulders away from your ears. To perform an anti-shrug (straight
arm dip), find a chair or any other stable surface where you can rest your hands with your feet
on the ground and your body suspended in the air ( Position 1 shown below).

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 15
Staring from Position 1, with your arms straight, your chest up, your spine straight, and your
head as high up towards the ceiling as you can get it, begin this exercise by letting your torso fall
straight down towards the ground. Keep your arms locked straight. Your head should fall down
between your shoulder girdle to about the level of your ears, without your arms bending at all at
the elbow. When you reach the bottom of this motion (Position 2 - note that, for now, this picture
is worng - the arms should not bend), switch directions, and push your head and torso back up
towards the ceiling (Position 1). Again, be sure your arms stay locked straight, your spine stays
straight, and your chest stays up the whole time. Breathe in, filling your belly with air as your
torso is moving down toards the ground. Breathe out, pushing air out of your lungs by pulling in
your stomach as you’re pushing your torso and head up towards the ceiling. Perform as many
reps of this exercise as you can without exhausting yourself, up to 30 or 40 reps at a time. Do
3-4 sets a few times per week.

Summing Things Up
Improving your breathing technique is one of the easiest, most effective things you can do
to improve your health. Combining the breathing exercise illustrated here with the “anti-shrug”
exercise outlined above, should help you begin breathing better as a matter of habit within
weeks. Once you do start breathing better all of the time, you’ll most likely find the tension in
your neck and shoulders easing up. You may also find yourself feeling less stressed and more
alert and energized as you go about your day. In the end just about every cell and organ in your
body depends on oxygen. Proper breathing technique will more thoroughly oxygenate your

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 16
body, and in doing so, help just about every organ and cell in your body to do its job better,
leading to more energy and better overall health.

Food for Thought
Reducing Inflammation
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E Can Stop the Pain
By: Roger Maxwell

As a stroke survivor, you might experience headaches as well as swelling
and pain — also called inflammation — in any affected joints and limbs. This
takes place as the brain and nervous system heal. With help from your health
care provider, there are a number of ways to reduce the effects of inflammation,
including the use of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

Fish Oil Capsules
The U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Institutes of
Health, has researched omega-3 fatty acids in the forms of docosahexaenoic

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 17
acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Among the office’s findings:
• Both DHA and EPA reduce pain and swelling of the joints and limbs.
• DHA produces a compound that helps reduce swelling brought about by” insults” (the
medical term for”injury”or “trauma”) to the brain.
• EPA helps to reduce swelling by limiting the amount of inflammatory compounds the body
can make.

Fish is a good source of both DHA and EPA. Choose fish oil capsules that include both DHA
and EPA to reduce swelling and pain. There are many fish oil supplements on the market: some
are made so they don’t cause a fishy aftertaste or burps.

Find a fish oil capsule and treatment regimen that you and your health care provider feel is
right for you.

Vitamin E
The health benefits of vitamin E are well known. The Office of Dietary Supplements Vitamin
E Fact Sheet notes that antioxidants such as vitamin E protect cells against free radicals —
unstable molecules that cause tissue damage and possibly some diseases.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 18
Vitamin E also:
• helps reduce pain and inflammation.
• boosts immune function.
• helps with in DNA repair and other metabolic processes.

The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that two national surveys found most Americans
do not receive the recommended intake for vitamin E (15 mg or 22.5 IU per day for men and
women older than 14) in their diets.

Good sources of vitamin E include:
• vegetable oils.
• nuts.
• green leafy vegetables.
• fortified cereals.

You and your health care provider can find a supplement that ensures you get the vitamin E
you need for good health and that fights pain and inflammation. While modern medicine relies
on medications, many of which offer a great deal in the way of healing, we shouldn’t forget the
power of nutritional supplements that work with your body naturally, just like food, to help it heal
faster.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 19
Roger Maxwell had a massive stroke in March 2003. When his regular rehab ended, he set up
a plan for full recovery. Today, he is a marathon runner and full-time patent attorney. Maxwell’s
recovery is detailed in Taking Charge of Your Stroke Recovery: A Personal Recovery Workbook
(www. takingchargebooks.com).

Res-Q 1250 fills the need for a fish oil capsule that is both highly purified and contains the
maximum amount of EPA and DHA possible per capsule. With 200 capsules per bottle and the
price as low as $31 a bottle (for the purchase of six and $33 for the purchase of three), you are
getting a fantastic value and a truly healthful product.

Res-Q 1250 is indicated for both prevention and recovery from heart attack and stroke.
Omega-3s are part of the basic building block of human health.

Vol. I No. 3 September 2009 page 20