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Shallow Breathing:One of the leading causes of tension in the Upper Body

“Only those who suffer from some kind of respiratory problem realize what does breath mean to living”, was the statement made by  late Mr. Dilip Damniwala  as he was gasping for breath during one of our therapy session.  This is a fact. We do not realize the criticality of ‘Breathing Right’ unless we are faced with breathing complications. It is important to note that most of the complications do not pop up overnight. It gradually gets accumulated over years; give us signals intermittently; is left unattended; and finally manifests into critical issues– ‘taking away from us, the ease of normal breathing.’

As we transit from childhood to adulthood, we unknowingly, begin our transition from being “Deep Breathers” into a “Shallow Breathers”.Lifestyle, a great contributor to “Shallow Breathing”

Complaints of upper back tension do not come as a surprise to me. Our sedentary lifestyle with innumerable number of hours sitting in front of the computers or the phone orients our body towards postural misalignment.  The gravity of the problem is intensified as the chairs and desks are not custom designed to suit each shape and size. Our body posture during these engagements is a hunched back and a dropped head. A direct result, therefore, is Muscular Imbalance where one part of the body is lengthening and the other shortening continuously for days, months & years. In these kind of postures, shoulders are mainly in drooping mode, chest caved in, pushing the upper back out of spinal neutrality, thereby, catering continuously to the consistency of ‘Shallow Breathing’.   This continuous postural assumption leads forth to myriads of problems. Tension in the Upper Back being one of them. “Shallow Breathing” – A key component in creating ‘Upper Back Tension’ In the above situation, your respiration is bound to a limited range and fails to involve some of the critical muscles which are an integral contributor to right breathing. Upper Back, thereby, becomes a direct target of tension as it fails to expand, and thereby, is always in contraction, storing tension in different pockets. This tension manifests itself into intense muscular tightening to your back of the neck, back of the head, shoulders, shoulder blades etc. Ignoring the issue may lead to cervical spondylitis, neck pain, tight shoulders and of course, very tight upper back. As a ‘Shallow Breather’, we have developed the habit of quick breathing using our chest alone and that too only by certain % of its capacity. The abdominal and the clavicle section of body are hardly used; in fact, the usage of clavicle region is almost to nil, which is one of the major causes of these accumulated tensions in those areas. Let us check how ‘Shallow Breathing’ feeds on this misaligned construction of the body:

  1. Lungs are getting squeezed from side as well as top

  2. Lungs are strained due to constant assumption of that posture

  3. Head is out of alignment, jutting out and, thereby, constantly straining the discs

  4. Shoulders may go upwards towards the ears and stress the neck and the upper back

  5. Chin may be out of alignment (slightly up) and may stress the end point of neck

  6. Intercostal muscles begin to lose its elasticity Such faulty structural composition of the muscles and the breath are home to many ailments (asthma, bronchitis etc.) as organs connected with these regions are unable to receive optimal oxygen nourishment. Yogic Breathing can uplift this tension

‘Yogic Breathing’ or “Right Breathing” has the ability to uplift you mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Breathing right will make sure that you expand your chest optimally upward and outward at the thoracic as well as clavicular region, needless to say the diaphragmatic area. Doing so will not only infuse enough oxygen in the body but also help keep all those areas relaxed which are otherwise in constant tension. Yogic breathing allows optimal respiration which body requires for nourishment and good health. It massages many organs, creates more space in the body and maintains the neutrality of the spine. Practicing Yogic Breathing even intermittently can do wonders for you. For any query, write to “Ask Shammi” on For other blogs on related subject, check

Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.

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