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Breathing: Why? How? What?

Here are some things we know about breathing: it is the act of taking air into and out of the lungs. We need it to survive.

We know oxygenation is important, but we need to dive deeper into these questions to get the most out of it. First, why?

Key points:

  • The lower lobes of the lungs provide best oxygenation (breathing into the back and bottom of ribs)

  • Breathing patterns can be used to help relax muscles and avoid tension (recruiting key synergist muscles to breathe will aid in relaxation)

So now we know to breathe 3 dimensionally into the ribs and to do so with key synergist muscles. Let's dive deeper into that. Key synergists muscles can fall into two categories: primary and secondary (or accessory) breathing muscles. Primary muscle use will provide the most relaxation and release of tension.

If you're curious about the detailed anatomy of breathing, here are the muscles used in inhalation and exhalation. This is the how:

Primary Inhalation:


External Intercostals

Accessory Inhalation:



Pectoralis Minor

Serratus Anterior

Primary Exhalation:


Accessory Exhalation:

Internal Intercostals

Transversus Thoracis

External Obliques

Internal Obliques

Rectus Abdominis

Quadratus Lumborum

"Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure." – Oprah Winfrey

Lastly, what? What exercises can you do to make the most out of your breathing techniques?


  • Find natural breathing patterns (Quick sniff - notice if diaphragm is properly functioning or if neck/shoulder take over)

  • Test different breath patterns (Passive Exhale - natural, fogging mirror - more tension/upper body/throat, pursed lips - slow/controlled)

  • Deeper exhale - expels more toxins, closes ribs/muscles more, can help to get to a more passive place (good more military type postures)

  • Slow and Controlled exhale - lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, core connection, helps facilitate transversus abdominis and pelvic floor muscles

  • Side-Lying - takes away gravitational tension, allows diaphragm to open and close without neck/shoulders

  • Lateral Rib Cage Breathing While Supine (lying on back) - hands on ribs

  • Breathing Forward (Seated folded forward over thighs) - opens synergist back muscles

Happy Breathing!


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