Lots of new health books and fitness class instructors claim proper breathing is the foundation of good health.

Startling news? Not at all. Dr. Sheldon Saul Hendler was saying this three decades ago.

He based it on his experience treating even the most debilitated patients. He witnessed “remarkable progress” and “miraculous benefits” from correcting the way they breathed.

Dr. Hendler believed oxygen deficiency is so common, you can rightly call it a hidden epidemic, and dealing with it is “the single most important thing you can do to improve your health.”

The solution? Learning to breathe properly. The benefits can be substantial…

Linked to Pain and Stress

What’s the big deal about breathing? I mean, we all do it naturally from the day we’re born, right?

No, many of us don’t do it right, and it IS a really big deal.

The late Dr. Hendler was a pioneering scientist, medical doctor and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Not a lightweight, in other words.

In his book, The Oxygen Breakthrough, he writes, “Do it right…you’re…likely to acquire high energy, improved metabolism, good health, endurance, and longevity.

“Do it wrong and you may find yourself…short of breath, sneezing and sniveling, listless, depressed, and immune-compromised.”

Recent Research Confirms It

In 2017, a review conducted in healthy people by Australian researchers reported significant effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and autonomic nervous systems simply by changing the way the participants breathed.

They concluded that their approach offered the potential to optimize functions associated with health and longevity.

In a study just published in the journal Gait & Posture, researchers from Spain looked at muscle tension and how this affects the stability of standing posture and the risk of falls.

Breathing correctly proved to be crucial, as revealed by the authors, “…breathing has direct effect over the management of pain and stress, and the results reported here point out the need to explicitly explore the troubling fact that a large portion of the population might not be able to breathe properly.”

The Spanish group found the ability to breathe with the abdomen was a difficult task for many of the young subjects in their study.

Abdominal Breathing

The word “abdominal” points to the crux of the problem. Too many people breathe high. The rib cage moves but there’s little movement in the abdominal area. That’s a problem, because it’s in the lower part of the lungs where most of the small blood vessels that transport oxygen to the cells are located.

According to Dr. Hendler, breathing from higher points in the respiratory system creates an oxygen debt even when a lot of air is drawn in, The shortage of oxygen creates disturbances in blood chemistry that lead to a broad range of disorders.

He lists these as cardiac symptoms, angina, respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, panic, depression, headache, dizziness, seizures, increased susceptibility to infection and other immune dysfunction, sleep disturbances and even hallucinations.

How to Breathe Correctly

While breath-work and breathing retraining courses are available, you may not need them. What may be most useful it to take the time to focus on breathing the right way.

Dr. Hendler provides six simple exercises in his book, but just one of these practiced regularly may be all you need to permanently switch from high breathing to abdominal breathing. Here’s what he suggests. . .

Lie flat and put a heavy, hard-cover book on your tummy with the spine of the book facing and just touching the bottom of the ribcage. Arms should be at your sides with the palms up and eyes closed.

Breathe slowly through the nose to lift the book as high as you can, then breathe out through the nose to lower it as far as you can.

Exhalation should be slower, about half as long again as inhalation, with four to six complete breaths (in and out) per minute. Do this twice a day for ten minutes at a time; first thing in the morning and last thing at night are good times to practice.

With practice, abdominal breathing will become second nature.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5709795/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30517907
  3. The Oxygen Breakthrough by Sheldon Saul Hendler, Pocket Books 1989