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These tests were designed to gauge breathing functionality.

After testing, did you find there is room for improvement? Awesome! Addressing breathing dysfunctions will help improve stability and movement dysfunctions while promoting a more peaceful state of mind.

Test your breathing functionality: Text

1. Breath-holding at Functional Residual Capacity (FRC)

  • Sit straight but comfortably. Breathe in, then breathe out naturally. At end of the exhale (breath out), hold your breath and plug your nose. 

  • Hold your breath until you feel a clear desire to breathe or until you experience involuntary muscle activity.

Note: Start a timer as soon as you start holding your breath, stop at first sign or urge to breathe, such as muscle activity in the stomach, chest or neck.

Functional Breathing: 35 seconds or more.

2. Breath-holding at Total Lung Capacity (TLC)

  • Sit straight but comfortably. Breathe in, then breathe out naturally. Then take a deep breath in (maximum inhalation) and and plug your nose. 

  • Hold your breath for as long as possible but still within your capabilities. Feeling a certain urge for breathing and experiencing muscle activity is allowed during this test.

Note: Start a timer as soon as you start holding your breath, stop when you stop plugging your nose.

Functional Breathing: 60 seconds or more.

3. The Breathing Wave

  • Lay on your front on a firm surface. Position a mirror so that you are able to see your trunk.

  • Place a couple of objects, one on your lumbar spine, the other between your shoulder blades. Ankle weights work perfect, they are comfortable, do not slide or roll over and are heavy enough so that you can "feel" them and develop lumbar and thoracic spine awareness.

  • Relax and observe both objects, their combined movements can easily reveal an existing breathing dysfunction.

Note: The Breathing Wave is a very good indicator of breathing functionality. However, this exercise requires you lay on your front. If you have troubles laying on your front or if you wish to lay on your back, seat or stand practice other mindful breathing exercises that have been adapted to those positions.


  1. Exhalation should take twice as long as inhalation.

  2. Allow for a short pause between inhale-exhale and a longer pause (3 seconds minimum) between exhale-inhale.

  3. Allow the object on your lumbar spine to move up and down with your inhalation and exhalation. We do not see it on the video, but the lower ribs should expand to the sides (laterally) during inhalation, your waste should then be "widening" in all 360 degrees during your inhalation. Allow it to go back to neutral during your exhalation.

  4. Ideally, the object placed between your scapulae (shoulder blades) should barely move. The reason is that during a relaxed state there should not be a recruitment of an upper thoracic breathing pattern.

The Breathing Wave video.

If you find it hard to perform this exercise, don't worry, we can help you regain breathing awareness and functionality. Our Breathing Assessments & Treatment Plans and our Mindful Breathing exercises were designed to help you adopt more appropriate and healthier breathing patterns. If you want to know more about it, do not hesitate to contact us.

4. The Hi-Lo Test

  • Lay on your back with knees bent (90˚) and feet flat on the ground. 

  • Try to soften any excessive curvature on your spine. If possible, avoid using a pillow under your head. If you feel it's really necessary, place a folded towel under your head. As you improve the configuration of your spine you will feel comfortable without having to use any support under your head.

  • Place one hand on the upper chest and the other on the abdomen (pinky at the level of the belly button).

  • Maintain your mouth relaxed. Breath through your nose throughout the whole exercise.

  • Inhale slowly, if possible for a minimum of 3 seconds.

  • Take a brief pause.

  • Exhale slowly, if possible for a minimum of 6 seconds.

  • Take a pause, for as long as you can while staying relaxed (2-3 seconds pause is fine).


In a relaxed configuration, a functional breathing pattern involves 

   - the movement (up and down) of the hand positioned on the abdomen AND

   - the stillness of the hand positioned on the upper chest.

A dysfunctional breathing will more likely translate into one or more of the following:

   - shallow breathing

   - over activation of the muscles around the neck-shoulder-upper thoracic area

   - upper chest "raising" or "lifting" during inhalation 

   - abdomen "sinking" during inhalation

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