Poor Breathing

The simple fact is that most people do not breathe well. Numerous studies have documented the negative effects of poor breathing on our health. When a person doesn’t breathe well, it restricts their body and mind, and induces physical, mental and emotional tension and stress. We all know the body needs oxygen to maintain its normal functions.  What is less known, however, is that when we are busy or stressed, our breathing often becomes shallow and we bring in less oxygen while exhaling less carbon dioxide.

Many years of habitual shallow breathing can cause the diaphragm to spasm. As the accumulated tension worsens it very often makes the diaphragm flutter. When we breathe in a shallow way, our bodies remain in a state of recurrent stress – our stress causes shallow breathing and our shallow breathing in turn causes stress. This negative feedback loop results in overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system – the branch of the autonomic nervous system that primes us for activity and response.

Since breathing is one of the key functions related to our autonomic nervous systems, it is critically important for our overall health and well-being.

Treatment with Traditional Japanese Medicine

Traditional Japanese Medicine (TJM) takes a holistic approach to health and regards illness as a sign that the body is out of balance. According to TJM, breathing plays a critical role of in both bringing in « Qi » (energy) into our lungs from the air we breathe, and is a principle force for the nourishment of all of our muscles, tendons, organs and tissues through the oxygenation of our blood. A weakness in this key function can lead not only to lung-related conditions such as shortness of breath, but also to generalized fatigue throughout the entire body.

From the standpoint of Rolfing®, another of the modalities I practice, the diaphragm is regarded as a major structure in the “fascia” system, the body’s network of connective tissue. This fascia network supports our body in both functional and structural ways. It is the warp and weft that connects all the parts of the body together into a single whole. In fact, the muscles and bones, liver, lungs, and other organs, the brain and the endocrine system are all arranged as if they have been sewn into the tapestry of this fascia system. The diaphragm divides the chest and the abdomen into two distinct zones, each with different physiological functions. The upper area is geared to the circulation and exchange of gases, while the lower area handles metabolic assimilation and elimination.

According to both TJM and Rolfing®, the diaphragm is the main organizer of the complex breathing process, and has links throughout the body with the anatomic, fascial, and neurologic systems. It has more than one function, being not just a respiratory muscle, but also involved in the vitalization of the whole human body.

The case of Madame S

A 48-year-old woman visited me for treatment, complaining of poor breathing and severe stress that had lasted more than 4 months. She reported that one month before her first visit, the associated symptoms of anxiety and concentration problems had also appeared.

When I first saw her, her symptoms included a sense of poor breathing, debilitating anxiety and tightness in her neck and shoulders.

By palpating various energy nodes, I got a sense of stagnation at a specific point in her abdominal region. In my experience, tightness at that point often indicates Qi stagnation in the Lungs and Kidneys when analyzed from the TJM point of view. Lung Qi governs the skin surface around the periphery of the body, while Kidney Qi governs the bones and core fluids regulation in our deepest parts. According to TJM, the in-breath draws Qi into the bone or marrow levels, while the out-breath sends Qi outwards to the skin. As a result, a kind of double stagnation invades the diaphragm, resulting in blockage of respiratory circulation and energy regulation, and emotional imbalance which is seen as a Yin/Yang disharmony.

For her treatment, I used a combination of Traditional Japanese Acupuncture (TJA) and Rolfing modalities. Her initial sessions were devoted to rebalancing her Lung–Kidney unity with TJA and releasing the involuntary diaphragm spasms by Rolfing. After the first session, her symptoms were greatly in remission. Since then, she continues to have regular treatments with me once every three months and she has maintained good physical and emotional condition.


TJA has been used to restore the mind/body balance for thousands of years. This holistic regulation influences the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, producing long-lasting results. If you would like to improve your breathing quality and ease your symptoms safely and naturally, TJA will address the root causes. The treatment will be tailored to your individual symptoms, designed to  restore your sense of vitality, well-being and health.

Left image; Lung channel of arm taiyin, C17/18 Chinese book art: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Left image; Kidney channel of leg shaoyin, C17/18 Chinese book art: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)