You know that the working of the heart is autonomic. You don’t control it. You don’t start it, and you don’t stop it. Its operation is controlled by complex and overlapping mechanisms within your body. The same is true of your breathing. The difference is that you do have veto power over your breathing. You can stop it, and you can start it again. But 99.99999% of the time, you are not thinking about your breathing, and your body just does its thing.

However, it’s not as simple as that because breathing involves the use of skeletal muscles, and we are all very much subject to habit in the use of our skeletal muscles. So, the result is that, most of the time, we breath without thinking about it, and without being consciously aware of what we’re doing, and we are just doing it according to whatever habits we have. 

But, let’s say you have Covid, and you are having trouble breathing, and it feels like you’re not getting enough air. What happens then? What usually happens is that the person panics, and they try harder to breathe. They may start gasping and straining to breathe. They may start trying very hard to suck in air. And all of that just makes the problem worse.

There is a process involved in breathing, and it is not true that if people need to get more air that they know how to do it, that all they have to do is try harder. They don’t understand how breathing works, and they don’t understand what they need to do, and sad to say, their doctor probably doesn’t know either.

This is an area where doctors are like cavemen; and they don’t have a clue. It really is a case of the blind leading the blind.

The first and most important thing to realize is that you can’t do your breathing. You can’t take a breath and do it well.

You have to realize that there are different kinds of muscular action. If for example, I want to flex my arm, I can willfully bend my elbow, and it is something that is under my direct control. However, using your muscles of respiration is not like flexing your arm. You can’t do it willfully and decidedly and get a good result. Some actions you just have to let happen and make sure you are not sabotaging and interfering, and that is true of breathing.

The action of breathing is a reflex action. What do you think of when you think of reflexes? Perhaps you think of the patellar reflex, when the doctor taps your quadriceps tendon and your lower leg flies up. What causes it to do that? You didn’t do it, right? It happened because the muscle contracted, but it was a reflex; a stretch receptor reflex that sent a signal to the quadriceps muscle to contract.

That’s how the muscle action of breathing is except more complex. You can’t “do” the knee jerk reflex, and you shouldn’t “do” the reflex actions of breathing either.

So, you have a Covid patient who is struggling to breathe and trying, in vain to take bigger breaths and faster breaths. So, what do doctors do? They offer them ventilators. “You’re getting tired, Mr. Jones. You can’t keep this up. You need to let us knock you out and ventilate you, and then our machine will do the breathing for you, while your lungs can get some good rest. Doesn’t that sound grand?”

Let me tell you, it ain’t grand. If the person is unconscious and not breathing at all, where the respiratory center in the brain isn’t sending signals to the respiratory muscles, or if there is a problem at the neuro-muscular junction where the muscles aren’t responding to the brain signals, then you have no choice. But, if the person is conscious and breathing, and it’s obvious that there’s nothing wrong with their respiratory muscles- and remember the young doctor on Youtube who became a national sensation when he said that there is nothing wrong with the breathing muscles of these Covid patients- then you don’t offer to knock them out and put them on a ventilator. You might want to use a nasal canula, which could have two effects: one to deliver more oxygen, and two, to deliver a powerful placebo effect to get the patient to stop panicking, calm down and stop working against himself.

But, the patient needs help to know how to breathe. It’s not something that they know how to do.

It starts with recognizing the reflex nature of breathing. Sound breathing does not involve sniffing, sucking, and gasping at the air. You don’t have to pull air into yourself. The air is under pressure: atmospheric pressure. All you have do is create a vacuum in your lungs, and the air will, on its own power, enter your lungs. EXPANDING YOUR CHEST IS WHAT GETS AIR IN YOUR LUNGS. The air moves itself. You don’t have to grab it.

And, the only way to get it right is not to take charge of your breathing, but rather, to let the reflex mechanism work, and make sure you are not interfering with it.  It starts by paying attention to your breathing. In other words: don’t try to breathe, but also don’t try to hold your breath. Let your breathing happen and pay attention to what you’re doing.

So, let’s look at the process of breathing from a bio-mechanical perspective.

So, what is supposed to happen at the start of inspiration? Well, during expiration, you relax your diaphragm which causes it to pop back into its high, dome-shaped position, which contributes to pushing air out of the lungs.

Now, the way the story goes, according to the ex-spurts, is that inspiration is mostly about the diaphragm descending. Not true. 70% of the expansion of the lungs comes from the lifting and widening of the rib cage.  That’s where the greatest mechanical advantage lies. You should think of your chest as a barrel, and it’s the upward and outward movement of the barrel that increases the space within the lungs more than anything else.

So, it is a fallacy to think that normal breathing is “belly-based,” that it’s all about the abdomen moving in and out. You do often see that in people, but that’s because they have so little movement in their thorax. They’re all locked up there, so the movement of the diaphragm gets exaggerated because something has to give.  

So, the sad truth is that people often had bad breathing habits before they got Covid, but then they get into worse trouble because of panic. They are trying to breathe more, but they don’t have the slightest idea of how to go about it.

You don’t have to think about taking a breath. Again: the breath come to you. You just have to let your chest expand in all directions to get the greatest capacity change in your lungs. And if you let that happen, the air will come to you- without any expenditure of energy on your part to grab it.

Do you have any idea how much efficient it is to breathe that way?


So, you’ve got this Covid patient who is in a panic because he feels he’s not getting enough air. He’s doing things to try to remedy it, but they are the wrong things. He is making the situation worse; not better. So, he gets to the hospital and the doctor sees him, and all he can think of recommending is a ventilator.

They need to have good respiratory therapists at hospitals who are trained in Alexander Technique, who can work with patients to bring them out of a panicked state, and can do subtle things to coax motion and mobility where it’s needed.


And I am not the only one who thinks so.

Now, listen to this nurse:

So, even though you are breathing well enough to remain conscious and speak, your Covid doctor may advise you to submit to this barbaric treatment. I hope you know what to tell him.