Types of Breathing: Evolution of Pulmonary Capacity

Different types or modes of breathing require a slightly different process to allow for inspiration and expiration.

All mammals have lungs that are the main organs to breathe. Lung capacity has evolved to support the activities of each animal species.

The human organism can be considered a mechanical machine that extracts oxygen from the air and uses it to generate energy.

Therefore, we can consider the efficiency coefficient of the human body to find the percentage of oxygen trapped by the lungs for different respiratory patterns.

During inhalation, the lungs expand with air, and oxygen diffuses through the surface of the lung, entering the bloodstream.

During exhalation, the lungs expel air, and the lung volume decreases.

The different types of breathing, specifically in humans

Eupnea: It is a way of breathing that occurs at rest and does not require the cognitive thinking of the individual. During eupnea, also known as quiet breathing, the diaphragm and the external intercostals must contract.


  1. Diaphragmatic breathing:

It is a breathing mode that requires the diaphragm to contract. As the diaphragm relaxes, air passes passively from the lungs. This type of breathing is also known as deep breathing.

The primary muscle involved in abdominal breathing is the diaphragm, a strong, muscular dome-shaped blade that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdomen.

The diaphragm contracts and pushes down when we inhale, causing the abdominal muscles to relax and rise.

In this position, the lungs expand, creating a partial vacuum, which allows the air to be aspirated.

When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes the abdominal muscle contracts and expels the air that contains carbon dioxide.

  1. Costal breathing:

It is a breathing mode that requires the contraction of the intercostal muscles. As the intercostal muscles relax, air passes passively from the lungs. This type of breathing is also known as shallow breathing.

This type of breathing is characterized by an upward movement outward from the chest wall.

In thoracic respiration, the expansion is centered at the midpoint and, consequently, aerates the middle part of the lung more.

Since the lower part of the lung is more abundantly perfused with blood, we have the ventilation-perfusion mismatch described above.

Thus, during rest periods, breathing in the chest is less efficient.

Breathing in the chest also requires more work in lifting the rib cage.

The body has to work harder to achieve the same mixture of gases in the blood as with diaphragmatic breathing.

And the greater the work, the more significant the amount of oxygen needed. They are more frequent breaths.

  1. Hyperpnea :

It is a way of breathing that can occur during exercise or actions that require active manipulation of breathing, such as singing.

During hyperpnea, also known as forced breathing, inspiration and expiration occur due to muscle contractions.

In addition to the contraction of the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles, other accessory muscles must also contract.

During forced inspiration, the muscles of the neck contract and lift the chest wall, increasing the lung volume.

During forced expiration, the accessory muscles of the abdomen, including the obliques, contract, causing the abdominal organs to up against the diaphragm.

This helps push the diaphragm into the thorax, pushing more air out.

In addition, the accessory muscles (mainly the internal intercostals) help compress the rib cage, which also reduces the thoracic cavity volume.

Once we know the breathing patterns, we can understand the forms of breathing among which we have: Here are four types of breathing that are available to us:


In each inhalation, the diaphragm muscle is designed to minimize the space in the abdominal cavity. This is why the belly pushes out with inhalation and why this is sometimes referred to as belly breathing.


If the diaphragm does not descend when we inhale the thorax, it must expand to accommodate the air that has been sucked into the lungs.

There is nothing wrong with using thoracic breathing by choice (this is the ideal way ashtanga yoga is practiced – with bands and breathing work limited to the chest until the end of the session.).

We do not want it to be our default breathing pattern.


Most people do not realize how much space the lungs occupy in the body.

The upper part of each lung is above the collar bone or clavicle.

Clavicular breathing is, unfortunately, when we do not even manage to get inhalation lower than the collar bone. This is considered the most simple pattern to breathe.


It is a strange occurrence of breathing where the chest is compressed in the inhalation instead of expanding and vice versa.

Ideally, diaphragmatic breathing is our natural way of breathing.

If it is not, and there may be many reasons why it is not, the awareness of what type of breathing it most uses is the beginning of changing the way you live to a different pattern.

Regular Breathing Pattern (Normal Breathing Cycle)

Textbooks of modern physiology suggest the following parameters of regular breathing pattern (normal breathing) at rest for healthy subjects:

– Inhalation is 1.5-2 s.

– Expiration is 1.5-2 s.

– Automatic pause of almost no breathing is 2 s.

– Tidal volume (the depth of inhalation) is 500-600 ml.

– The respiratory rate (or Rf – respiratory rate or respiratory rate) is 10-12 breaths/min.

The international physiological norm for the respiratory rate at rest is 6 l / min (for a 70 kg man).

The average time to maintain breathing without stress after the usual exhalation (which correlates with the body’s oxygen content) is 40 s.