How To Breathe Properly

Most of us are shallow “chest breathers." Learn about proper breathing and how it can help you.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read

Adults Breathe Deeply too Sometimes

As adults, typically we breathe properly when we are laying down or when we go outside on a warm spring day and breathe in all the fresh air. It also happens when we get scared ... you know, when you take that sudden deep breath of air ... huh, like when you get a letter from the IRS.

How to Breathe Deeply

Some people say proper deep breathing "fills the tummy with air." Of course, really it's your lungs that are filling and it’s your diaphragm pushing all your body parts down and out! That's the proper way to breathe and your body knows it instinctively! (That's a good thing, huh?)

Give It a Try

OK--so let's try it together. Stand up (come on, really: stand up), shoulders back, hands on your stomach, and breathe--remember, check your shoulders, they should not be going up, and your stomach should be going out (this is the part of deep breathing that I don't like--trust me when I tell you I don't really need my stomach sticking out any further than it already is!) OK, so here we go ... breathe deeply ... try filling your lungs as much as possible. Look down, watch, and feel your stomach going out, hold your breathe for a second or two, then slowly exhale. One more time: breathe. Good job!

You'll Get More Air

Why do we need to breathe like this? Well, If you want to fill your lungs it's the only way to breath. When you breathe with your shoulders you only fill the upper third of your lungs with oxygen. However, when you are properly breathing you open up the bottom of your lungs and make them available for air. It increases oxygen capacity and metabolic rate and all of the systems of the body begin to benefit from the additional oxygen.

Practice Makes Perfect

Although we instinctively know how to breathe properly, the hard part is to remember to breath like this all the time. It takes practice ... a lot of practice.

I try to practice at certain times of the day to reinforce my habit of healthy deep breathing. I do it every time I brush my teeth, I do it every time my phone rings, and I do it every time I am waiting for my computer to boot up. Try to think about times or events in your day when you could remind yourself to practice proper breathing. The more you do it the easier it becomes, really.

So, the next time you need an energy boost or you feel yourself lacking in concentration, or maybe you need to calm the butterflies in your belly, remind yourself … breathe--a deep inhale followed by a slow exhale. It can relax and refresh you (and perhaps even inspire those around you).


This is Lisa B. Marshall with another quick and dirty tip for better workplace communication. If you have a question about how to communicate better at work, e-mail publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com, post a comment below, or follow me on Twitter

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Passionate about communication … your success is my business.


Breathing exercises that I have found helpful.

Man Breathing image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.