Filed under: corrective exercise, Exercise of the Week

Exercise of the Week: Crocodile Breathing

by Carson Boddicker on Mar 18th, 2010

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Proper breathing is the root of all healthy and functional movement.  Crocodile breathing is a very simple way to retrain abdominal breathing that leads to better mechanics and control over joints from the TMJ and as low as the foot and ankle.  I typically program this as “homework” exercise or include a few during our rolling portion of the session.

Best regards,
Carson Boddicker

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  • Rob Murphy March 18, 2010

    Carson,

    When doing this particular movement, which I’ve included for some time now (ever since watching “Secrets of the Shoulder” from Cook/Jones, if I recall correctly), but while it is “easy” to breath properly when I actively focus on it, it’s anything but reflexive in daily life, and I often notice myself reverting to a chest-breathing style. In order to make this more natural and reflexive, is it “simply” a matter of

    a) doing stuff like this
    b) having a well-rounded training program that attacks any other deficits from multiple angles
    c) regularly working with a skilled manual therapist

    and

    d) just being patient?

    It’s somewhat frustrating when I know how it should feel but then recognize myself slipping back into less than helpful habits. This goes doubly so given that I am likely using the sloppy pattern while sleeping, so this means quite a few hours per week of poor breathing mechanics over which I don’t have conscious control, hours that can only serve to keep the habits entrenched instead of helping to restore proper patterns.

  • Carson Boddicker March 18, 2010

    Rob,

    Breathing is an EXTREMELY complex issue as in many cases psychology alters physiology.

    Additionally, crocodile breathing is a very small step and often my first in the retraining process. It is gravity minimized so there is little demand on core stability. Often times you’ll see people who breath extremely well in supine or even prone only to revert back to poor patterning when placed in situations where more or different stability is required. Time and time again it happens. It really does a good job teaching belly breathing, but not necessarily three dimensional expansion of the thorax, which is critical for optimal stability.

    As such, progressions must go beyond crocodile breathing. I’ll lay a few out from time to time in the blog. I think you’ll really benefit from one of the projects in which I am currently involved as well, so follow along.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Best regards,
    Carson Boddicker

  • Carson Boddicker March 18, 2010

    Rob,

    I failed to address your question adequately enough.

    A well-designed training program and a smart manual therapist never hurts. Bad breathing begets muscle restrictions that can lock you into an elevated “chest” breath position that benefit from manual therapy.

    Additionally, lack of good breathing reduces micro mobilizing t-spine movements (via synkinesis and rib head movement). From a training perspective, I find opening up the throacic spine can help in the retraining process. Additionally, incorporating breathing pattern work into exercise progressions doesn’t hurt.

    Best regards,
    CB

  • Craig Liebenson March 23, 2010

    Carson,
    From watching the U-Tube I can’t tell what you are cueing the subject to do.

    Thanks,
    Craig

  • Carson Boddicker March 24, 2010

    Dr. Liebenson,

    I have planned to reshoot the video with sound and coaching in the coming days. I hope that will answer your questions.

    I appreciate your work.

    Best regards,
    Carson Boddicker

  • Julie Friedeberger November 29, 2011

    I’m sorry to tell you that your demonstration is incorrect.

    Crocodile breathing is a strengthening exercise for the diaphragm, in which the diaphragm is required to work harder than normal against the pressure of the floor.To practise it correctly, the chest should be off the floor, so you need to move your elbows back.

    I see that you are re-doing the video, with verbal instructions, so perhaps you would correct the demonstration too.

  • Carson Boddicker December 4, 2011

    Julie,

    By the letter of the yoga law, I should probably not call this “crocodile breathing.” I, however, cannot condone the use of the type of breathing exercise with the chest off the ground during this in training stage. I am not saying that it may not have a place–perhaps improving a multi-segmental extension pattern (though I’d use it posted on elbows)–but I think the key to exercise prescription and proper execution must come back to intent.

    In early stage breathing pattern development or re-education, I’m often attempting to reduce tonus in the spinal extensor mechanism that comes in those exhibiting a lower crossed pattern and inhibited diaphragm via an altered zone of apposition (these are both Janda’s ideas intermingled with those of the Postural Restoration Institute). If you’ve ever seen those with COPD breath they are very good about using the extensor mechanism to create pseudo-pump handle action at the expense of bucket handle action and experience a compromised pattern of stability as a result (see Panjabi’s research concerning osteoligamentous stability gain). The exercise in question seems to me to be facilitating what I would consider less than ideal patterns of movement rather than moving toward more authentic patterns of stability and mobility.

    What do you think?

    Regards,
    Carson Boddicker

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