Dysfunctional breathing


Research into the benefits of breathing well

Approximately 1 in 10 people have symptoms of dysfunctional breathing*

However, we all have negative experiences that can affect our breathing patterns (see Upton 2012a for a review of this topic). Dysfunctional breathing is related to decreased emotional wellbeing (Hagman et al. 2008), poor asthma control (Upton et al. 2012b), and decreased heart rate variability (HRV) (Courtney et al. 2011); a measure of the ability to adapt to stress and environmental demands.

* Thomas et al. 2005.


Physical benefits:

A conscious connected breath encourages a diaphragmatic breath. Diaphragmatic breathing may:

Be employed as an effective therapy in reducing the oxidative stress (Martarelli et al. 2011), implicated in the cause of many diseases.

Improve gastroesophageal reflux disease (Eherer et al. 2012).

Decrease pre-surgical mood-disturbance and increased immune functioning of cancer patients after surgery (Cohen et al. 2011)

Be useful in migraine (Kaushik et al. 2009).

Improve the level of reported symptoms, quality of life and psychological impact of asthma.

Psychological benefits:

Diaphragmatic breathing can also improve our well-being.

It has been found to:

Contribute to the development of alpha EEG (Arambula et al. 2001), connected with relaxed mental states in meditation.

Decrease stress levels (Christakis et al. 2012).

Relieve ‘tension-anxiety’ and fatigue in patients with gynaecological cancer undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy (Hayama and Inoue 2012).

Breathing exercises have been shown to increase creativity (Colzato et al. 2012).


Arambula, P. et.al. 2001. The physiological correlates of Kundalini Yoga meditation: a study of a yoga master. Appl.Psychophysiol.Biofeedback, 26, (2) 147-153.

Bruton, A. & Thomas, M. 2011. The role of breathing training in asthma management. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol, 11, (1) 53-57 Christakis, I. et.al. 2012. Measuring the stress of the surgeons in training and use of a novel interventional program to combat it. J Korean Surg.Soc., 82, (5) 312-316.

Cohen, L. et al 2011. Presurgical stress management improves postoperative immune function in men with prostate cancer undergoing radical prostatectomy. Psychosom.Med., 73, (3) 218-225.

Colzato, L.S.. 2012. Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Front Psychol., 3, 116.

Courtney, R. et al 2011. Relationship between dysfunctional breathing patterns and ability to achieve target heart rate variability with features of ‘coherence’ during biofeedback. Alternative Therapies, 17, (3) 38-44.

Eherer, A.J. et al 2012. Positive effect of abdominal breathing exercise on gastroesophageal reflux disease: a randomized, controlled study. Am.J Gastroenterol., 107, (3) 372-378.

Hagman, C. et al 2008. A comparison between patients with dysfunctional breathing and patients with asthma. Clin Respir.J, 2, (2) 86-91.

Hayama, Y. & Inoue, T. 2012. The effects of deep breathing on ‘tension-anxiety’ and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy. Complement Ther.Clin Pract., 18, (2) 94-98.

Kaushik, R et al. 2005. Biofeedback assisted diaphragmatic breathing and systematic relaxation versus propranolol in long term prophylaxis of migraine. Complement Ther.Med., 13, (3) 165-174.

Martarelli, D. et al 2011. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces postprandial oxidative stress. J Altern.Complement Med., 17, (7) 623-628.

Thomas, M. et al 2005. The prevalence of dysfunctional breathing in adults in the community with and without asthma. Primary Care Respiratory Journal 14[2], 78-82.

Upton, J. 2012a. Emotions and Breathing Patterns in Asthma. Practice Nursing 23[2], 64-68.

Upton, J. et al. 2012b. Correlation between perceived asthma control and thoraco-abdominal asynchrony in primary care patients diagnosed with asthma. J Asthma, 49, (8) 822-829.

Research kindly supplied by Dr Jane Upton

© Dr. Jane Upton.

This information is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, mitigate, treat or cure any disease or condition. No claims are made by as to specific health benefits. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for medical advice. The user assumes all responsibility and risk for the use of the information.


Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking

Lorenza S. Colzato*, Ayca Ozturk and Bernhard Hommel. Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands.


The practice of meditation has seen a tremendous increase in the western world since the 60s. Scientific interest in meditation has also significantly grown in the past years; however, so far, it has neglected the idea that different type of meditations may drive specific cognitive-control states. In this study we investigate the possible impact of meditation based on focused-attention (FA) and meditation based on open-monitoring (OM) on creativity tasks tapping into convergent and divergent thinking. We show that FA meditation and OM meditation exert specific effect on creativity. First, OM meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, FA meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem. We suggest that the enhancement of positive mood induced by meditating has boosted the effect in the first case and counteracted in the second case.

Citation: Colzato LS, Ozturk A and Hommel B (2012) Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Front. Psychology 3:116. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116. Edited by: Anna M. Borghi, University of Bologna, Rome, Italy.

Reviewed by: Anna M Borghi, University of Bologna, Rome, Italy; Thomas Kleinsorge, Leibniz Research Centre for working environment and Human Factors, Germany. Copyright: © 2012 Colzato, Ozturk and Hommel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited. Published online: 18 April 2012; original link

‘A total release and relief. I felt empowered breathing in a circular motion without anxiety. For once I was in my body and not my head. I felt grounded and inner strength with having my feet touched at the end. I suffer with anxiety and it has stopped me from doing things. I have had to take time off work. I'm very grateful, thank you.’
Holistic Lounge

‘The reorganisation of breathing alone succeeds only to the degree that we succeed indirectly in improving the organisation of the skeletal muscles for better standing and better movement.’
Moshe Feldenkrais