What Exactly Are Our Breathing Muscles?

In Yoga we breathe ONLY with—our proper breathing muscles—the Muscles of Respiration because they give space for the diaphragm (major breathing muscle) to slide EASILY up and down.

Widening through the lower back, side ribs...

Widening through the lower back, side ribs…

The FULL movement of the diaphragm liberates and powers Prana. Imagine? Breathing with our correct breathing muscles releases stress all day long! (Upper chest breathing creates and maintains anxiety, while excessive abdominal breathing gives way to lethargy.)

The Muscles of Respiration depend on our Back Breath. Unaware of our numerous back breathing muscles, we overuse the front ones and the so-called accessory breathing muscles, such as the scalene, sternocleidomastoid and upper chest wall muscles, which make us more anxious.

However, once the Muscles of Respiration are established—even under duress—the ONLY respiratory muscles needed are the Muscles of Respiration because they KEEP US CENTRED AND CALM because they pump Prana through our bodies (and eventually Kundalini!)

Since most people breathe with their accessory breathing muscles and overuse their front respiratory muscles, SWITCHING to Back Breath brings IMMEDIATE relaxation and alertness.

The Back Breath widens and stretches our back ribs and this activates the back brain, fostering intuitive awareness. It also stimulates the adrenal glands, making us alert (without the caffeine!), bestowing a feeling of strength. (To say someone has a ‘strong back’ implies we can lean on them.)

I came upon the Back Breath while teaching my first Yoga retreat. Since I wanted to hang out with the students (and teach the retreat!) I needed to stay grounded, so I focused on widening my back ribs. Soon my breath was centred in my back and I was alert and stable with lots of energy!

So I stopped teaching the Belly Breath and, instead, taught my students to Back Breathe. This was the early 80’s. Imagine my surprise when years later I saw all those back breathing muscles! (Click here for a short video of breathing with the Muscles of Respiration.)

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