Have you ever sat and paid attention to your breathing? If not, take a minute and notice what part of your body is moving as you inhale. Is it your abdomen? Is it your shoulders? Your chest? Could it be affecting your posture? Notice how deep your breathing is. Does it feel different now that you’re paying attention to it?
It probably does because so many of us don’t pay attention to how we’re breathing. In fact, one of the most common things I tell my patients is “breathe!” I can always see when their breath is shallow. Proper breathing is important for many reasons beyond the obvious fact that we need oxygen to live.
The way you breathe can impact the alignment of your spine, the engagement of your core muscles, stress and energy levels, and the overall balance of your body.
Here’s how proper breathing contributes to better posture:
- Engages Core Muscles: Proper breathing engages all of your core muscles – the muscles that keep you upright and moving. This engagement helps stabilize the spine and supports your posture by providing a strong foundation for moving the rest of your body. Think about your body like a tree. Your arms and legs (the “branches”) are ultimately only as stable as your core (trunk)
- Supports Spinal Alignment: Proper breathing helps maintain a more neutral spine alignment. When you breathe deeply and evenly, your chest and ribcage expand without excessive tension in the neck, shoulders, or lower back. This reduces the likelihood of slouching or hunching, which can result from shallow breathing patterns.
- Reduces Tension: Shallow and chest-focused breathing can lead to tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. This tension can contribute to poor posture as your body compensates for discomfort. Deep breathing helps release this tension and promotes relaxation in these areas, allowing for a more natural posture.
- Promotes Mind-Body Awareness: Focusing on your breath encourages greater awareness of your body and its alignment. This mindfulness can lead to adjustments in your posture as you become more attuned to how you’re sitting or standing.
- Enhances Oxygenation: Deep breathing increases oxygen intake, which is essential for overall health and muscle function. Well-oxygenated muscles are more capable of supporting your body weight and maintaining proper posture.
- Improves Circulation: Efficient breathing helps improve blood circulation throughout your body. Proper circulation ensures that your muscles receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen, supporting their strength and function to help you maintain good posture.
- Encourages Relaxation: Deep, rhythmic breathing triggers the relaxation response in the body, reducing stress and tension. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to maintain a natural and balanced posture.
To practice proper breathing for better posture:
- Sit or stand tall with your shoulders relaxed.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to expand (your belly should rise, not just your chest).
- Exhale fully through your mouth or nose.
- Focus on maintaining this deep, even breathing pattern throughout your daily activities.
While proper breathing can contribute to better posture, addressing any existing posture issues may require a comprehensive approach that includes ergonomic adjustments, regular exercise, stretches, and a consultation with a chiropractor.