How To Stop Shallow Breathing with One Simple Exercise

How To Stop Shallow Breathing with One Simple Exercise

When I went to my first acupuncture session, the acupuncturist mentioned that one of my main issues was poor breathing techniques. I’m a notoriously shallow breather and have been told this by numerous people, including my own husband and mum.

If I consciously try to breathe deeper, my diaphragm tenses up and I get out of breath – instead of getting more oxygen in, I get even less in.

That’s what happens during meditation, too. When I focus on my breath, I can’t breathe at all and every single muscle in my body tenses up. I end up getting more stressed than relaxed.

Lisa, my acupuncturist, explained that I breathe only with my chest, but I should really be breathing through both the chest and belly. The upper half of the lungs lies in the chest, and the lower half in the belly. If I only breathe with my chest, I literally use only half of my breathing capacity and probably get only half of the oxygen in as well.

And this gets worse if I get stressed or if I’m exercising because then I either hold my breath or breathe in an even more shallow manner. It’s not good!

Neck Muscles Get Tense Because They Help Lift My Diaphragm

I often get tense painful muscles in my neck and back of the head. When Lisa massaged them, she said they felt like muscles that were unusually strong, and that’s due to working very hard. Which is very strange because those muscles should hardly work at all. The reason why it’s like that is fascinating: apparently when I breathe only with my chest, the neck muscles are used to raise the diaphragm more in order to get enough air in. So after a while, they get overworked. They’re doing what they aren’t supposed to do.

Lisa explained that the tensing of the diaphragm and inability to breathe deeply is due to a miscommunication between the brain and the diaphragm. And all it takes is a little exercise. With it, it instantly becomes easier to breathe with the belly if you focus on it. But in time, if you continue doing this simple exercise a few times a day, your body will learn the new breathing technique and will start breathing like that when you aren’t even aware.

All it takes is a bit of perseverance at the beginning. It’s just like building any other habit. One day it will simply become automatic.

One Simple Exercise to Stop Shallow Breathing

If you try to breathe in through your belly slowly, the belly muscles tense up and it simply doesn’t work. If you’re like me, slow breathing is definitely out of the question.

The secret is to breathe in quickly and forcefully through the belly and to exhale at your normal speed. Literally, throw your belly out as your inhale, then exhale normally. The inhale should only take one second, no more than that. Can you feel how effortless breathing is doing it quickly?

Now repeat it five times. How does that feel?

Once you’re done, try to breathe slowly but still through your belly. Can you feel how much easier it is now? How much less tension there is in the diaphragm and the belly muscles?

I find it truly fascinating!

Lisa told me to do this exercise five times a day, and each session should include five quick inhales. After that, I usually spend a few more minutes closing my eyes and breathing slowly and deeply through my belly. With each day, it’s becoming more and more natural, and I even catch myself breathing like that during the day when I’m not even actively watching my breath. This exercise truly works!

If you find it hard to remember to do it, simply set up five reminders on your phone. That’s what works best for me.

Try it out right now and tell me, how does it feel? Do you feel that it’s easier to breathe now?

Thank you so much for watching/reading!

Simply yours,
Vita xx



  1. Debbie Shaffer says

    Vita, I feel like I might have always been a shallow breather. I have never been told about belly breathing. After I called the poison control center about a possible overdose of a prescribed medicine, I told them I felt like my breathing was different. Then I saw your page on the internet describing breathing. I tried the belly breathing and felt better almost instantly. I will continue doing this daily to improve my breathing. Thank you so much for this information!!

  2. This is really helpful. I’m a shallow breather and reading what you wrote really resonated with me. My husband says I’m a shallow breather as well. Meditation and yoga – forget it. I’m constantly gasping for breath while trying to focus on my breath. I tried you trick, absolutely something I will do every day. Thank you very much for sharing this!

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