Lungs diagram detailedIN AND OUT, in and out, in and out. All day long and all night too. When you have nothing better to do and with your eyes closed, pay attention to your breathing. Don’t do anything to it, just listen and feel the air going in and out slowly and rhythmically. Do that five times, paying attention with every sense you can muster. Try to SEE the lungs filling and emptying, filling and emptying.

With the exception of people who were extremely active as children and then continued their activities as adults, the national air intake is confined to somewhere in the middle area of the lungs and provides an inefficient function called SHALLOW BREATHING. This means that the lungs take in far less oxygen than they were designed to hold even for simple everyday living.

Unless one has a really bad cold, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, or has just climbed to the top of Mt. Rainier, breathing is one of those functions that could be called Heart and lungs illustrationautomatic. Automatically, every day, you take in about 17,000 breaths… and that’s if you’re not doing anything. When you’re exercising or even just walking around the number of breaths can increase to 50,000 a day.

Ordinary everyday people, we who make the world go round, don’t even get enough air for simple daily living. What’s more, having insufficient oxygen in our bodies has more negative results than the proverbial dog has fleas! FATIGUE is just one of them.

Whatever you decide to do you can’t do it without good lungs. You came into the world with itty bitty little bags call LUNGS. The more you yelled when you were still flat, the better your start. Once you were mobile, ACTION should have taken over, BUT…spectator amusement, wheels of every kind and certainly the first day of school, capped your lungs and screwed the lid on tight. Today, 90% of American first graders are treated thus.

Measuring BreathingVital Capacity: What’s Yours?
Lungs are built by running, biking, swimming, jumping rope, dance, and other activities requiring endurance. Vital capacity is extremely important especially today, when air pollution is so prevalent. The vital capacity test gives you a good indication of the amount of air your lungs can take in; that in turn tells you a great deal about your stamina and even about the ability of your brain to think. If you have a good oxygen supply you do better everywhere, from playground to Harvard Law School.

To determine your own vital capacity:

  1. With a tape measure around the chest (across the nipples) blow all the air out of your lungs.
  2. Keep the tape measure in place and inhale as deeply as possible.
  3. Measure again and note the difference in inches.

The difference in inches is your vital capacity. Singers and mountain climbers can measure 5 to 6 inches. Three inches would be excellent for a child, ½ an inch is a disaster.

Things That Make a Difference
Poor posture plus trauma to the torso and rib cage, which house the lungs, can limit vital capacity. By treating the trigger points in the upper body, both back and front and performing the corrective exercises you can improve your posture and your vital capacity. Don’t forget to measure first and then compare the after results to tell you how efficacious your Myotherapy treatment was. If you decide to begin a new exercise program measure your vital capacity first and then a month later. It will give you a good indication as to how well your program is working.

Front and back torsos


Chest Breathing vs Abdominal Breathing
Babies breathe by expanding the lungs into the abdomen without raising the ribs. Later, when they stand erect, the breathing becomes mixed as the ribs are raised and the diaphragm lowered.

Bones of the ChestBones of the Upper BackChest breathing refers to breaths from the top lobes of the lungs. The lungs are inflated when the chest muscles pull up on the rib cage. The chest muscles expand and contract with each breath.

Abdominal breathing is much more effective and uses the entire lung capacity. The lungs are fully inflated, breaths are longer and slower and a larger amount of oxygen is delivered to the bloodstream.

If you are a chest breather you would do well to start now to practice and improve your abdominal breathing.

Shout it out! Sing it out! Cheer it out! Develop your lungs. Dance, jump rope, hike, bike, run (but not on the road). The road has an unforgiving surface and air pollution. A beach, trail, track or golf course would be better for both your legs and your lungs. Just ask your dog.

Oxygen is important; in fact you can’t get along without it. What you don’t use you lose applies double to lungs. Increased oxygen in the improved lungs will add to your feeling of zest, well-being and control. Absolutely everything you want to do, including being able to live until this time tomorrow, depends on the efficient action of those two lungs.

Intercostal StretchIntercostal Stretch
With a light weight in your hand, (a rock will do) allow your arm to move from your side to over your head in a wide arc. As you move the arm from your side to overhead inhale fully. As you lower the arm, exhale. Do 8 on each side.

Back Stroke Snap and Stretch exerciseBack Stroke Snap and Stretch
Hold arms at chest level with elbows bent. Bring elbows back. Return to starting position. Swing straight arms back.


For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®


Figures and exercises from Pain Erasure and Myotherapy: Bonnie Prudden’s Complete Guide to Pain-Free Living, both by Bonnie Prudden. Lung illustrations (from Wikipedia) by Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, CC BY 2.5,, and by Gray’s Anatomy at, Public Domain,