6 Tests to Self-Identify Your Breathing Patterns

Are you a mouth breather? Poor breathing habits are easy to spot. Use these 6 tests to identify your own breathing problems.
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colleen and rodney yee hands to your upper belly

Are you a mouth breather? Poor breathing habits are easy to spot. Use these 6 tests to identify your own breathing problems.

1. 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 does not, you're definitely a chest-breather. Anything more than slight movement in the chest is a sign of inefficient breathing.

See also The Science of Breathing

2. 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.

Read Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

3. Overbreathing

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 overbreather. As a second test, try to shorten your inhalation. If that causes distress you are probably an overbreather. 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.

See also 4 Reasons to Breathe Right

4. 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.

Try The Breather

5. 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. Since reverse breathing may only occur during exertion, this test is not completely reliable.

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6. 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.

See also Transform Your Practice With Better Breathing

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