Nasal Breathing for Optimal Posture, Movement, and Wellness - Custom Fit Physical Therapy

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Nasal Breathing for Optimal Posture, Movement, and Wellness

Adult woman breathing fresh air

Have you ever thought about the way you inhale and exhale and how it influences your wellness?

For many of us, breathing is something we do unconsciously. By and large, most adults practice suboptimal breathing patterns with no conscious awareness of how it impacts them physically.

When a client comes to my concierge physical therapy practice, I thoroughly evaluate movement restrictions, strength, gait and breathing patterns. Most clients need corrective breath training to create an optimal breathing pattern to improve posture, alignment, stability and to promote healing which involves adopting nasal breathing.

Inhale and Exhale: Suboptimal vs. Optimal Breathing Strategies

Recognizing that your breath profoundly affects and impacts your health is essential. The strategies you use to inhale and exhale can have a game-changing influence on your health from head to toe.

Optimal breathing involves filling the entire Thoracopelvic cylinder with air going down to the pelvic floor, creating rib expansion laterally and also front to back so you feel the back ribs moving.

It does not mean you circulate air to all areas simultaneously but rather through focused control, direct your breath to a targeted site, be it the pelvic floor, mid lungs, or upper rib cage. This ensures that you get oxygen to all parts throughout your Thoracopelvic cylinder activating better health, alignment, posture, and movement.

This cylinder consists of the Thorax(sternum, ribs, thoracic spine), lumbar spine, and the pelvis. (See image below).

Thoracopelvic cylinder

In clients with established suboptimal breathing strategies, it's common to see postural deficits and dysfunctional movement patterns: forward shoulders, flared rib cage, distended abdomen, Diastasis Recti (the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles during and after pregnancy), chronic tightness, sleep apnea, anxiety, gait dysfunction, urinary incontinence, back pain, and or neck pain.

Corrective breathing strategies, helps optimize diaphragm function, improve posture, alignment, joint stability, core activation, which leads to better balance, gait, and movement patterns.

Let's Look at Different Types of Breathing and Discuss Their Effectiveness, or Lack Thereof:

Mouth breathing: Many individuals are mouth breathers, taking air in through their mouth and exhaling in the same fashion. Research shows that mouth breathing is not an optimal strategy, and it bolsters suboptimal diaphragm function, posture and movement. Because mouth breathing doesn't filter or humidify the air as it is inhaled, it is less than ideal and perpetuates rapid, shallow breathing.

Additionally, chronic mouth breathing feeds into sleep apnea, a severe condition if left untreated can cause damage to the heart, heart attacks, and strokes. Sufferers are prescribed to wear a CPAP device and mask while sleeping, providing a steady flow of oxygen through the nose, which often trains and corrects mouth breathing.

Chest breathing: With this type of breathing, a person will tighten up their neck which causes over-contracting and simultaneously heaves the chest forward, not allowing air to fully circulate to the ribs and Thoracopelvic cyclinder. This type of breathing would fall squarely in the suboptimal category and requires effort and concentration to correct the patterns that have formed. 

Belly Breathing: Another dysfunctional strategy is belly breathing, in which the belly is forced forward, which over stretches the abdominal wall, contributes to postural deficits and weakens the pelvic floor. Many women over forty experience pelvic floor issues, leaking while sneezing/coughing, and more which can often be linked to breathing techniques.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught to belly breathe in the fitness industry.

The most effective breathing technique that we encourage is three-dimensional breathing as it optimizes inhaled breath and ensures air moves top to bottom, side to side, and front to back of the body. It helps to visualize a cylinder that goes from your collarbone and top ribs all the way down to your pelvic floor. It gives you the ability to access all regions of the cylinder as needed.

This optimal nasal breathing seeks to upregulate the primary respiration muscles while quieting overused muscles. Adopting this breathing method means maximizing the cylinder's use, achieving optimal alignment, and utilizing your diaphragm in union with other muscles that influence respiration.

Nasal breathing: While you may never have given your nose much thought, it is a masterpiece, beautifully designed for breathing. The nose should be utilized for optimal breathing strategy whenever possible. The nasal passage is an intricately designed filtration device that warms, moistens, and filters the air upon inhaling.


This process successfully oxygenates the blood and optimizes the respiratory system. You also practice alignment and control as you learn to maximize your breath. Please watch video for a demonstration of the nasal breathing strategy in action.

Click Here to Watch the Video

Explore the Benefits of Nasal Breathing

Slow and intentional nasal breathing oxygenates your body correctly, reduces pulmonary vascular resistance, increases oxygenation to tissues and muscles, improves posture/ performance, alleviates chronic mobility issues, and loosens the longstanding tightness contributing to chronic pain.

It is important to slow your breathing. Optimal breathing is 6-12 breaths per minute. Slower breathing impacts the vagus nerve which is a major player with all body systems and diseases.(heart, digestion, immune system, chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue etc)

You can see how immensely nasal breathing can improve the health of your whole body. It’s like putting high-test gasoline in your car. Since your body is the vehicle in which you travel through life—doesn’t it deserve the best? Of course, it does!

How are Posture and Breathing Connected?

The conscious effort paid to one's breathing pays off in spades. For one, it improves diaphragm function and doing so is intrinsically linked to improving posture, alignment, and stability. This leads to improved movement patterns, balance and gait. Furthermore, your breathing strategy impacts the positioning of your rib cage, spine, neck, and head. So, posture and breathing play primary roles in your wellness, vitality and physical mobility.

Breath of Life: How Nasal Breathing Optimizes Movement and Wellness

Nasal breathing is instrumental in improving range of motion, flexibility, endurance, and strength, all of which will enhance your quality of life. These impressive gains make exercise, sports, and daily activities all the more enjoyable. With these improvements, you'll no longer need to overcompensate in your body just to breathe. It's an undeniable winning scenario.

As you can see, this topic is vast, and since we all live and breathe, perhaps nothing is more important. If you find the subject fascinating, consider reading the best-selling book "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art" by James Nestor.

And if you'd like a one-on-one assessment of your breathing and its impact on your wellness, contact us.

The time has come -- to breathe better, move better, and live better -- because YOU are worth it!

Martha Tassinari

Martha Tassinari

Martha graduated from Northeastern University, in Boston Massachusetts, with a degree in Physical Therapy in 1994 and later studied Craniosacral Therapy, Myofascial release and Neurokinetic Therapy. She is a lung cancer survivor and is passionate about helping women heal physically, emotionally, and energetically. In addition, she is a life coach and empowers others to take charge of their health and self-care so they can have more energy, decrease stress, implement healthy boundaries, and live life with more freedom, peace, and joy. Feel free to check out her life coaching services at
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