Breathing happens automatically (about 20,160 times a day), so you don’t need to think about it. But if you do, you can unlock stores of energy and unload stress 24/7—plus be stronger, speedier, and more centered during your workouts.
To start, here’s a quick refresher: Your diaphragm is supposed to act as the main “breathing muscle,” but this below-the-lungs powerhouse tends to sit somewhat idle in most people. “In fact, it’s partially paralyzed,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and the founder of the Breathing Class, a series of workshops designed to reset healthy breathing patterns .
To tell if yours is on duty, lie faceup on the floor and place your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your belly. Breathe. “If only your right hand rises and falls, you’re breathing from the diaphragm,” says conditioning specialist Tony Mikla, the performance physical therapy manager for the Exos training center in Phoenix. That’s good—it signals that your diaphragm is contracting, thereby pulling away from the ribs to make space for your lungs to fully expand and fill with air. “But if your left hand moves as much as or more than your right, you’re a chest breather.”
The problem with chest breathing is that you expand the chest rather than the belly, which limits the amount of air moving in and out. This type of shallow, rapid b