Breathing FAQs

By changing your breathing you will be able to control stress. Not let it control you!

Sometimes the most effective things are the most simple.

We breathe automatically without thinking about it, but breathing is the only vital life function we can voluntarily control. This is breathwork.

I define breathwork as Breathing on Purpose or “BOP,” which is breathing with awareness, intention, and attention to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Breathing exercises intentionally improve breathing efficiency, lung health, and athletic performance and reduce stress and anxiety.   



We breathe over 20,000 times a day, but most of us breathe inefficiently and in a way that increases stress.  

Here are a few more reasons why breathing is the lowest-hanging fruit of physical, mental, and emotional health.

  • The link between the mind and body can be the catalyst for your emotional state
  • Poor breathing habits magnify over a lifetime, affecting health and happiness. Many people are unaware that they are stuck in stressed breathing habits for weeks, months, or even years
  • Anyone can learn it
  • It is accessible
  • It is free
  • It is accessible anytime and anywhere
  • It strengthens the immune system
  • It stimulates movement & circulation

Benefits of breathing well?

  • Improves the digestive system
  • Enhances lung function (better gas exchange)
  • Increases muscle performance
  • Reduces neck and shoulder pain
  • Improves heart health
  • Lower stress levels
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Regulates the nervous system

Vertical breathing (aka chest or apical breathing) is when you use the backup breathing muscles high in your chest, often leading to overuse of the neck and shoulder muscles. 

Our bodies are only meant to breathe this way for short bursts, but many of us get stuck in habitual vertical breathing for too long, causing:

⬆️ cortisol (stress hormone), neck and shoulder pain, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, digestive problems 

⬇️ immunity

“Belly” breathing (otherwise known as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing) allows us to use the primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm. This is how the body is designed to breathe and (according to Dr. Belisa Vranich) is anatomically congruous and biomechanically sound. In other words, our body wants to breathe this way. 

By breathing using our primary breathing muscles, we capture the highest amount of oxygen into the densest, the most oxygen-rich portion of our lungs (the lower part of the lungs). This relieves strain on our shoulders and backs by giving our auxiliary breathing muscles a break. 

Belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and restorative. 

Diaphragmatic “belly” breathing will help:

  • regulate the nervous system: breathe low and slow to calm our thoughts and body
  • unexplained breathlessness and breathing discomfort
  • asthma and chronic lung complaints
  • digestive issues
  • snoring and sleep apnea
  • poor breathing patterns and habits
  • anxiety disorders
  • over breathing
  • sports performance

Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary. This means that our habits play a role in how we breathe; without awareness of these habits, our breathing can become inefficient and dysfunctional.

If breathing becomes dysfunctional, your health suffers. We are all born with a healthy breathing style, but many of us lose this style and adopt unhealthy and inefficient breathing habits. The goal of The Breathing Class™ is to re-learn how to breathe optimally. 

The Breathing Class™ is  for anyone who experiences any of the following:

  • neck/shoulder pain
  • low stamina/endurance
  • brain fog
  • chronic stress /anxiety
  • back pain
  • low energy
  • high blood pressure
  • acid reflux
  • digestive issues
  • sleep troubles
  • exercises-induced asthma

Breathing may not be the solution in itself but is an excellent place to start! 

The first step is to educate yourself to build awareness of your breathing habits. Children often model after their parents or caregivers, so working to improve breathing habits together is your best chance of success. The goal is to build this simple practice into the daily routine (i.e., bedtime).

In other words, parents, teachers, and caregivers must “put their oxygen mask on first” before teaching it to children. 

 

Here is an outline of a typical coaching session

  • Introduction/overview
  • Review concerns and health goals 
  • Assess your unique breathing style and what it means
  • Learn breathing basics and the science of breathing
  • Customized breathing exercises to strengthen lungs, improve focus and reduce stress
  • Review your daily breathwork practice and homework

My approach to breathwork is: science-based, simple, safe and accessible

We will discuss your breathing style and develop a customized plan to improve your breathing habits. You will learn how to do your measurements so that you can track your progress. 

When you breathe high initiating the breath with your neck and shoulder muscles (vertically), your body feels under attack (fight or flight), and the sympathetic nervous system takes over. If this is your breathing pattern while at rest, you will get stuck in an alert state all day long without enough time to rest and recover.  When you breathe vertically, you have less control over your stress response. 

Alternatively, when we breathe low and slow expanding the belly, sides and back (horizontally) , the vagus nerve immediately signals the parasympathetic system to rest and digest. This gives you more control over your reactions and calms the mind and body.  You can use low and slow belly breathing throughout the day to interrupt the stress cycle. 

First of all, we are all born with an anatomically perfect breath. We use our diaphragm without bracing or feeling self-conscious for several years before bad habits set-in.  Watch your dog or a child under 5-years old, and you will see a healthy breathing pattern. 

Dr. Belisa Vranich completed a study of 158 children (ages 2-11) and found that by age 5 ½, dysfunctional breathing patterns begin to emerge. Teaching kids at a young age will give them the tools to self-regulate and breathe with understanding and awareness to prevent those bad habits from setting in.

Some of the reasons this happens are:

  • Starting school
  • Sitting longer
  • Stop rolling on the floor
  • Wearing backpacks
  • Their social life increases (or not)
  • Homework/testing (stress)
  • Comparisons (self-conscious)
  • They mimic parents
  • Stethoscope at the doctor’s office
  • Tight clothes

Can you remember or relate to any of these habits or myths from when you were young?

Breathwork is a safe and effective practice, but if you have specific questions or concerns, I invite you to sign up for a FREE 15-minute Discovery Session. Upon booking, you will have the choice to meet over Zoom or via phone. This will be a time dedicated to your questions and personal goals. 



There is a psychological element of breathing that directly affects your emotions. Breathing is a bridge linking body and mind and is the connection that can be activating, calming, or cathartic.  

So this means that how we breathe can affect the way we feel. 

All breathing classes are held online via Zoom unless you are in the Twins Cities area.  If you would like to inquire about an in-person session or workshop, I invite you to sign up for a FREE discovery call to discuss your inquiries and goals. 

My combined passion for teaching and breathwork will give you the best experience and expertise to get your body to breathe well again. As a mother, I see the need for new tools to manage stress and pass these essential skills down to our children. I invite you to join me on a transformative experience that is practical, fun, and effective!

My Certifications/Credentials:

How to prepare for a breathing session:

  • Computer, tablet, or iPhone for Zoom session
  • A quiet & uninterrupted space 
  • Yoga mat or towel
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Empty stomach
  • Water bottle
  • Tape measure (like this one)

*optional, but highly recommended-Dr. Belisa’s BREATHE™ Book

Yes!  As an athlete, fatigue is your worst enemy.  The Breathing Class will help you breathe efficiently followed by strengthening the breathing muscles to help you breathe easier and perform longer and harder with less effort.  

Your breathing muscles fatigue just like any other muscles in your body.  

We will train them separately to:

  • gain maximum efficiency with minimal effort
  • optimize oxygen saturation when the system is anatomically congruous
  • decrease recovery times due to higher efficiency
  • increase ribcage mobility and flexibility 
  • relieve excess tension

Go to the services page on this website and register for your session with me. Or you are always welcome to reach out with questions or concerns anytime at stephanie@balancingelephants.com

Why Learn How to Breathe Well?

  • It is the link between the mind and body that can be the catalyst to your emotional state
  • Poor breathing habits magnify over a lifetime, affecting health and happiness. Many people are unaware that they have been stuck in bad breathing habits for weeks, months, or even years.
  • It can be taught to anyone
  • It is accessible
  • It is free
  • It can be done anywhere at anytime
  • It strengthens the immune system
  • It stimulates movement & circulation
BE Buddy Felix the Fox Breathing Toy