Types of breathing: diaphragmatic, thoracic and clavicular

Types of breathing
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Breathing well is very important for the human organism. Through breathing, we obtain the oxygen that our cells require for the proper functioning of the body systems. Thus allowing from the movement of the muscles to concentration or alertness, among many other functions of our body. Today we share types of breathing.

No less important is the relationship between the respiratory pattern and relaxation or tension, both physically and psychologically: by breathing well we allow the natural physiological self-regulation of our body, which favors a state of general relaxation, while if we inspire air superficially or excessively, anxiety and physical tension will increase.

For all these reasons, breathing well is one of the main keys to general well-being and to the relaxation of the body and mind. However, many people ignore this factor and get used to using respiratory patterns that interfere with our well-being, although it is not difficult to automate a healthy type of breathing.

Types of breathing: the 3 respiratory patternsTypes of breathing

Humans use three main respiratory patterns: diaphragmatic, thoracic and clavicular breathing. Which are also called low, medium and high, respectively? As the reader can intuit, these three types of breathing receive their names from the part of the torso in which we focus on each of them.

However, not all of these respiratory patterns are healthy, since some of them by themselves are insufficient and lead us to inspire an insufficient amount of oxygen.

As we will detail below, the healthiest of these types of breathing is the diaphragmatic or abdominal, although the best way to breathe is to combine them; When this happens we talk about “complete breathing.”

Diaphragmatic breathingTypes of breathing

This respiratory pattern is also known as “abdominal” and “low” because it involves focusing breathing on the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the lungs and abdomen, located below the ribs.

The diaphragm is a fundamental muscle for the respiratory process. When we inhale air the diaphragm falls, which causes the abdomen to increase in volume; The more air we inspire, the greater the swelling of the belly. In fact, the contraction and dilation of the thorax as a whole depend on the movement of the diaphragm.

When breathing with the diaphragm the abdomen rises, while when we exhale through the diaphragmatic breathing the belly falls. In this way the bottom of the lungs is filled with air, with which oxygen can be distributed through these organs to a greater extent than when we breathe more shallowly, focusing on a higher part of the respiratory system, as in the case of Costal and clavicular breathing.

Although later we will explain in detail how to breathe well using a diaphragmatic pattern, we can anticipate that the best way to practice this type of breathing is by lying on a comfortable surface, since this position relaxes the abdomen and the diaphragm.

Chest breathing

The thoracic breathing consists of favoring the entry of air into the lungs by separating the ribs. So that the rib cage is enlarged. It is also called “costal breathing”, “intercostal” and “medium”.

To breathe deeply, it is advisable to execute this respiratory pattern after a focused inspiration in the abdomen.

Although this type of breathing is suitable as a complement to abdominal breathing since it helps even more so that the air reaches the lungs if we always use a thoracic respiratory pattern we inhale little oxygen: the process requires more effort than diaphragmatic breathing to achieve the same amount of air.

To practice chest breathing it is advisable to sit down since this posture favors the separation of the ribs. To notice the breath we can place our hands on the sides; In this way, we can perceive the contraction and dilation of the ribs and the associated muscles.

Clavicular breathingTypes of breathing

The clavicular (high) respiratory pattern is the least suitable of the three types of breathing if we apply it alone. Without combining it with abdominal and costal breathing.

In this case, the respiratory movement focuses on lifting the clavicles when breathing. Not many people use this pattern under normal conditions, although anxiety states favor shallow breathing. In the opposite direction, breathing in this way can increase the probability of suffering from physiological hyperactivation, muscular tension, and psychological anxiety, since it interferes with obtaining oxygen.

If we breathe in this way the air does not reach the deep part of the lungs but only enters superficially. In this sense, it is an even less efficient respiratory pattern than chest breathing. So it should be replaced by a combination of the three types of breathing or at least by the diaphragmatic.

How to breathe well? Diaphragmatic breathing exercises

If it were necessary to say which of the three respiratory patterns we have described is the best. It would be necessary to choose abdominal breathing. Or rather the patterns that imply the contraction of the diaphragm as a nuclear element. This is because the distention of the abdomen allows a good volume of air to enter.

However, to breathe well it is best to combine the three types of breathing and that the air fills the lungs. Thus, the best way to breathe is a combination of the diaphragmatic, pulmonary and clavicular patterns.

Therefore, an adequate respiratory pattern should focus on the diaphragm and abdomen. To carry out diaphragmatic breathing we inhale. So that the belly swells more than the chest, which we can check by putting the fingers between the chest and the abdomen. If we want to extend the inspiration to the rest of the lungs. In addition to the diaphragm, we can expand the thoracic cavity in the area of ​​the ribs and above.

If your intention is to practice slow and deep breathing, we recommend that you use a comfortable posture; lying down or using the lotus posture is appropriate, although many people prefer to lie down because this position relaxes the abdominal muscles, favoring the movement of the diaphragm and therefore the passage of air through the respiratory system.

Inhale and exhaleTypes of breathing

Inhale and exhale the air on a regular basis, taking it from the abdomen. But allowing it to fill the lungs as much as possible, expanding your chest cavity. Inspire for 4-5 seconds and exhale about 8-10; keep in mind that the respiratory patterns depend in part on each person. So it is important that you adapt these times to your preferences in order to feel comfortable and relaxed.

Training healthy breathing patterns will lead us to automate them progressively. First of all, it is convenient to convert deep breathing exercises into a habit to practice about three times a day. And then we will generalize them to daily life both actively and involuntarily.

People with psychological stress problems can use diaphragmatic breathing exercises to reduce anxiety.  Both in cases where it is elevated during the day to day and when it occurs in specific situations; Two examples would be social anxiety and agoraphobia.

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