Whole body breathing: assessing and managing dysfunctional breathing patterns


Jan van Dixhoorn

From a system's perspective respiration plays a dual role in the organism. On the one hand it responds adequately to the system's requirements and sustains both mental and physical activities. Thus, changes in breathing reflect to large degree changes in physical and/or mental demands made upon it. A criterion of functional breathing therefore, is its flexibility: the capacity to respond to variation in system requirements. On the other hand, respiration is a vital function, which is open to conscious control and regulation. Thus, the subject may voluntarily change one's breathing pattern, in order to influence his mental or physical state.

It is difficult to describe dysfunctional breathing patterns per se, because a specific pattern may look dysfunctional but actually be the result of a specific mental or physical determinant. The respiratory pattern may simply reflect that and we should respect that.

In this workshop we will explore variation in the distribution of respiratory movement. We will practice a method for graphic representation and manual assessment in the sitting position of different breathing patterns. Its utility in treatment will be shown. We will differentiate the role of posture and mental focus as determinants of breathing. It will appear that slow, diaphragmatic breathing is not always functional. Also, upper thoracic breathing can be done both in a functional and a dysfunctional way.




Address for correspondence:

Dr. JJ van Dixhoorn, MD, PhD

F van Blankenheymstraat 10

3817 AG Amersfoort

The Netherlands