Toddlers should be correctly breathing unless they are sick or ill. While most newborns begin breathing correctly, very few still maintain natural breathing through their early childhood. Most toddlers lose their much-needed muscle coordination very early in their lives. With the loss of our natural breathing and development of chronic breathing inefficiency, we also change our relationship with stress and our response to it. Our response to stress is exaggerated because we are unable to relax our rigid muscles, which leads to them being tired and weakened. Such a person, due to their weak structure, experiences outside pressures way more severely. This eventually leads to psychophysical problems. They develop chronic muscular tension and become oversensitive to CO2 in their blood.
Toddlers are highly susceptible to stress, especially if it is continuous because it causes chaos in an undeveloped respiratory system and changes their breathing. This causes a personality shift; they start adjusting the course of their life to the demands and habits of their surroundings. A large portion of that stress comes from constant competition, which is a staple of modern society. Before a newborn can even adjust to their body regulating itself in a particular environment, they are already expected to grow up as fast as possible and provide a high enough efficiency that the parents need to function properly. Growth and development of a child that takes time, peace, and carelessness are turned into a competition. This is especially true for the toddler’s ability to express their feelings, greatly disturbing his parents’ fast pace of living. There is no time for calm feeding, coexistence, and a high enough relaxation of the mother’s body that the mother can perceive the child’s needs and meet them in a way and in the amount and time the child needs them.
Nature has arranged the child’s development so that he is the one who determines what he needs, how much he needs it, and when. An unborn child in his mother’s body takes only as much as he needs and as much as the mother can offer, and this relationship remains after birth as well, because the mom senses the child’s needs intuitively. The difference is that there aren’t any communication issues between them during the pregnancy, but when the child is next to the mother’s body, her chronic muscular tension limits or distorts the nonverbal communication. In undeveloped countries, we can still observe this communication between the two. The child rarely cries, and the mother knows what he needs. But here, we can commonly hear a mother asking her year-old baby why he is crying.
Due to their parent’s tense bodies, the child has to influence their surroundings, which quickly makes him problematic. It triggers a neurotic response with his parents, which isn’t what the child wanted or needed. He gradually learns that expressing strong feelings, for which he needs correct breathing, isn’t in his best interest, since they receive a negative response. The parents, panickily trying to calm the baby, react incorrectly, and the baby, despite strong irritations sent into his surroundings, doesn’t receive what he needs. With that, his ability to satisfy his needs through expressions is weakened; he either becomes calm, undemanding, a “good boy,” or numb, or hyperactive, impulsive, and angry.
Such a child cannot breathe efficiently enough, since he had to limit his expression’s authenticity to conserve the relationship. He is so dependent on if he wants to survive.
For me, the belief that crying strengthens a child’s lungs is wrong.
Crying that doesn’t solve the problem that made the child cry initially, but instead brings forth an overreactive or negative response from his surroundings, causes the child to realize that crying doesn’t solve problems, but only makes the issue worse and gets pressured to stop crying. Those nearby don’t know why the child is crying or simply can’t or won’t change what causes him to cry. They demand the child to adapt and change, which they achieve by pressuring him into it. The higher the pressure, the harder the child breathes, which makes it harder for the child to cry, to which he becomes used to and adapts (going to the kindergarten, for example). Breathing strengthens breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a relaxed baby as a relaxed mother strengthens the suction reflex, which allows correct breathing.
We act towards our children as our surroundings act to us. We encourage the baby to achieve a goal, just to run off to the next one. Achievements do not bring any sensual satisfaction to the parents that the child could understand and perceive as a motive to strive for new achievements. The expectations of the surroundings of the child are also too great and unnatural due to his tension. That’s why his body resists because such treatment and demands are unnatural and contrary to the physical laws of efficiency and development which the child’s body follows. The muscles tense up and become rigid. The fragile breathing system responds with a lowered breathing efficiency, which needs to be reconciled with the reduced efficiency of bodily expression. That’s when the health issues begin. Catching a cold a few times in a year isn’t that big of a problem, but we can suspect an incorrect breathing pattern if they constantly repeat.
Breathing has an important effect on the entire body. Think about how long we can live without breathing, how long without water, and how long it is without food. Then think about how much attention you pay to breathe correctly, how much for drinking, and how much for food. The parent’s pride in their advanced child cannot justify the damage caused by all this long-term stress. Sadly, many parents are too focused on their problems and don’t notice their child’s incorrect breathing, while they quickly notice them drinking or eating incorrectly.
Most people wrongfully think that we breathe with our lungs, while we breathe with our whole body in reality. When breathing correctly, our lungs expand with our chest and abdomen. Correct breathing includes the cranial muscles, neck, chest, and lower part of the body, including the pelvis. Logically, chronic rigidity in any part of our body disturbs the natural flow of movement required for correct breathing.
Breathing is a rhythmic process. The normal respiratory rate in a resting adult is 8 to 10 inhalations and exhalations per minute. We breathe faster when we are excited, slower when we are relaxed, sleep, or are depressed. How deep we breathe depends on our mood. It’s shallow when we are scared or anxious or unable to express or respond based on our feelings realistically.
With every inhale and exhale, we can observe the wave of air. The inhale starts deep in the abdomen with the backward movement of the pelvis. The wave then moves up the body as it expands. The head tilts slightly forward to suck the air in as the nostrils open up. Exhaling starts in the upper part of the body and moves down: the head tilts back, the abdomen and chest shrink, and the pelvis tilts forward.
If we inhibit breathing, we isolate ourselves from the environment.
The warning signs for incorrect breathing in an otherwise healthy child are prone to respiratory diseases, the loss of clarity in his voice in speech errors. The voice and breathing are inseparable, and when the voice changes, so do the breathing. Sometimes, the solution is to relieve the pressure that was put on the child; usually, it’s more complicated than that but still solvable. Solving these problems is also the purpose of AEQ breathing.
A lot of children develop the dangerous habit of holding their breath. When they are under pressure, they raise their shoulders and tighten their chest to hold that air inside. Their inhale is deeper and more pronounced than their exhale. They are afraid to relax because they can’t control their emotions, which is important for maintaining balance in the family. If we don’t notice and correct that, we prevent the child from breathing correctly, eventually becoming chronic and “normal,” despite being harmful.
Without the necessary correction to his breathing and fixing his parents’ relationship, the issue will most likely be left unsolved. Through a string of innocent illnesses, it will develop into more serious respiratory diseases, speech errors, or the inability to express their feelings efficiently. Despite children being adaptable, resilient, and able to recover quickly, they are greatly affected by stress and incorrect breathing.
The best help one can offer a child with respiratory problems is to relieve the pressures that caused him to become tense and breathe incorrectly. The constant drive for achievements can cause serious damage to his breathing. The early signs are changes in voice and a weaker immune system. The habits that will create a pattern of incorrect breathing and weaken the breathing muscles are holding in air, pushing the shoulders up instead of being relaxed, lowered state. Breathing through the mouth, sleeping with their mouth open, an elongated face, incorrect teeth growth, and hearing problems are also tightly connected to incorrect breathing. If we notice that the child’s abdomen expands during an exhale or talking, it means that the diaphragm is too weak to support the air pressure, causing problems down the line.
We must realize that the diaphragm is too weak to perform its primary function because it has to support a high pressure in the abdomen, resulting from imbalances in the child’s surroundings. Due to the muscular resistance and high ability to regenerate in a child, the symptoms of weaker respiratory muscles will very often disappear with the release of external pressures. It is important to fix the relationship issue the child has with his parents. By raising their emotional responsibility, the child can relax his tension when expressing his feelings, that, this time, won’t face a negative response. Emotionally mature parents will create a more stable environment for the child’s natural development.
Toddlers with problems grow up into adults with even bigger problems. While teaching people how to breathe, I realize that many problems with my patients began in their childhood.
Aleš Ernst, AEQ breathing teacher, level 3