Making Breathing Automatic

How do we make {the ideal} diaphragmic breathing pattern autonomic?  To be able to just do it, without have to think about it?

How do we improve the autonomic function of the soft core? How do we get them to fire more efficently with all movements? For proper soft core, I take it we need diaphragmatic breathing in place first?

… asking the client for a diaphragmic breath during exercise not consious control?


My first impression of the message was to think about choosing to use the word autonomic rather than automatic. I thought you would mean automatic, but when breathing is automatic in terms of not requiring cuing or coaching, it is because it is compliant with the autonomic nervous system.

What is interesting and exemplary when it comes to breathing that it’s musculoskeletal action can be trained through various methods and repetition.  Following the motor learning literature in terms of random practice is probably best practice at this time.  And as you progress from cognitive to associative to autonomous, it is one of the few links directly to the ANS. Eye training, which I am several weeks into for myself, is another keyhole that links muscular to neuro.
Progressing from simple to complex, fast to slow, more or stronger fixed points to less are progressions in which to engage breathing.
You have the DNS positions.  You have slowing down multi-tasked drills like the Turkish Getup and Chops/Lifts, along with extreme mobility like yoga or extreme stability like some pilates or anti-motion positions where you can practice breathing.

Breath and Go Green.

Basically, the suggestion is that you can drive the ANS with a positive musculoskeletal input from the conscious breathing training, shift to the green, and get a positive neuromuscular output via “automatic” breathing.

The motor skill, reaching an assumed standard, is an example of joint centration.  It is trained muscularly but yields a CNS response.

Social stress is an enormous input to the ANS, and that would be a direct competitor to your breathing training. This is just as powerful an example as someone following a hip and t-spine mobility program and regularly sitting 8-12 hours @ work.
In terms of “correcting” breathing, sometimes the more potent intervention is what you DON’T do (don’t get stressed) rather than what you do.  And stress can be lifting with bad form, social stress, inefficient nutrition, overtraining, the list goes on.

Garbage into the system regardless of the form will jack up breathing.

Considering nose vs. mouth breathing, I believe the nose has far more baroreceptor pathways than the mouth, thus keying into the CNS at a more powerful clip.
Why any one individual has disturbed sleeping is always up for assessment.

Potentially effective to breath through the nose and get dumb people to stop speaking.

While some are still fairly staunch with the TA and multifidus training, I think this will continue to fall behind the curve in favor of the diaphragm being the primary focus of inner core training. It continues to completely baffle me how one can push the draw-in and expect to facilitate the diaphragm and intra-abdominal pressure.
Yes, there is more than 1 way to skin a cat, but there’s also good-better-best. And there’s also benign and useful.

Something that I have recognized sociologically is that when you look at folks that push TA and multifidus, I don’t see too many folks that have ever held serious weight in their hands, ran really fast, or done anything more athletic than pilates. I think this is a missing piece in either understanding and/or accepting that the diaphragm is the starting piece to breathing and the musculoskeletal keyhole to the ANS.

We've seen this fellow before. We will continue to make fun of him and any other individual thinking the draw-in is useful.

  • February 20, 2012

Leave a Reply 10 comments

Stroud Reply

What eye training system are you using? I’ve had good effects experimenting with focus and correcting asymmetry (my left eye dominates my right, to the point that I’m not even truly using binocular vision unless I’m deliberately exercising it), but I’m not familiar with any formal system of training the eyes.

Charlie Reply

Stroud – I don’t think the VT I am doing has a name. I am right now capable of converging and diverging, but I can not converge in open space. This causes me to day dream and/or read slowly.
I will send you the name of the computer program w/3D glasses I use to train -ductions.

Marc Andresen Reply


Thanks for the article. I’m fascinated by this diaphragm/breathing/primitive movement idea and am following right along.


Francisco Reply

How do you train diaphragmatic breathing? I know this sounds like a “stupid” question but I feel like I am missing the boat on something.

drcbdc Reply

visual synkinesis/respiration synkinesis is a term I have heard with muscle work. it is based on neurophysiological relationship with body movements and the eye. in a nut shell look in the direction the body part would move during contraction with inhale and with relaxation exhale look away. An exception would be muscles of mastication its the opposite. this is my only experience to relate to the topic.

Luke Wilson Reply

It’s like you ad my mind. I have been trying to wrap my head around a lot of the DNS/PRI type techniques and how you transition them from basic positional exercises to athletic development and sports performance.
As someone who lifts heavy weight, is it your belief that once you train use of the diaphragm and cent ration etc, that it becomes automatic and thus you don’t necessarily have to “train” it in sports specific positions?

Charlie Reply

It is a pattern than is trained to become autonomous just like any other. After a while it just becomes “normal.”
You are correct, that it likely doesn’t require further intervention when it’s not a challenge.

Paul Lenart Reply

This is a great topic, I had similar beliefs on how to make diaphragmatic breathing autonomous, but this is in more detail than I envisioned. Thanks for the info. I was looking to learn a bit more about motor learning, what sources would you refer, that might deal more directly with training?

Charlie Reply

I think most of the contemporary motor control stuff is in the literature rather than any books right now.

Josh Reply

I really appreciate your post. With respect to TA activation drills, do you feel that there is a place for them? Is it worthwhile to teach diaphragmatic breathing and then tie in TA activation? Or does one preclude the other?

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