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ASTHma answers
How Healthy is Your Breathing?

Asthmatics have poor breathing habits that are easy to spot. Here are a number of self tests to help determine if you can benefit from the breath retraining exercises beginning on p. tk.
Upper Chest Breathing
Lie on your back, placing one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen. If the hand on your chest moves as you breathe but the one on the abdomen doesn't, you're definitely an upper chest-breather. Anything more than slight movement in the chest is a sign of a problem.
Shallow Breathing
Lie on your back and place your hands around your lower ribs. You should feel an effortless expansion of the lower ribs on the breath in and a slow recoil on the breath out. If your ribs remain motionless your breathing is too shallow, even if your belly moves.
Over breathing
Lie down and take a few minutes to let your body establish its relaxed breathing rate. Then count the length of your next exhalation and compare it to the length of the following inhalation. The exhalation should be slightly longer. If not, you are an over breather. As a second test, try to shorten your inhalation. If that causes distress you are probably an over breather. Note: Because it is easy to manipulate the outcome of these two tests, you may want someone else to count for you at a time when you are not paying attention to your breath.
Breath Holding
Holding one's breath after inhaling may be the most common poor breathing habit. To determine if you do this, pay attention to the transition from inhalation to exhalation. A breath holder usually feels a "catch" and may actually struggle to initiate the exhalation. This tendency is particularly noticeable during exercise. You can reduce the holding by consciously relaxing your abdomen just as an inhalation ends.
Reverse Breathing
Reverse breathing happens when the diaphragm is pulled into the chest upon inhalation and drops into the abdomen on exhalation. Lie on your back and place your hands on your abdomen. The abdomen should slowly flatten as you exhale and rise gently as you inhale. If the opposite occurs you are a reverse breather. (This test is not completely reliable since reverse breathing may only occur during exertion.)
Mouth Breathing
It's fairly easy to notice if you're a mouth breather; if you're not sure, ask your friends or try to catch yourself at unguarded moments.


© 2001 Barbara Benagh