Understanding and experiencing breathing

Part 2: Three practical exercises

by Sophie Stahl (07.01.2022)

The first part was about understanding breathing, the second part is about experiencing it! Physiotherapist and oboist Sophie Stahl shows you three practical exercises to relax, train or regenerate your respiratory muscles. They are ideal for everyday musical life - before, during or after a rehearsal.

© Dovile Sermokas

Sophie Stahl Sophie Stahl works as a freelance oboist (M. Mus.) and as a physiotherapist in the Berlin and Brandenburg area. ...

Have you understood the Processes of Breathing in Part 1? Then let's experience it! All you need is: you, a chair and a mat (or alternatively a blanket, a towel...).

Just one thing first: I have chosen these theoretical contents and exercises to give you a first insight into understanding and experiencing breathing. If one of these exercises does not feel right for you, please do not force it. Not every exercise works for everyone. Please respect your pain and seek medical and physiotherapeutic support if you experience physical discomfort.

But now go straight ahead! Experience your breathing in a new way!

1) Diaphragmatic relaxation to go

– Great for in-between! –

Air enters your lungs through the activity of your respiratory muscles and the negative pressure created when you inhale. The main actor in this process is your diaphragm. When the diaphragm is activated during inhalation, it descends, pulling your lungs down with it. This creates a negative pressure and air flows through your airways into your lungs.

This activity can be traced through the exercise 'diaphragm relaxation to go'. I like to call it that because it is great to do in between rehearsals, for example. By the way, this exercise relaxes your diaphragm.


  1. Sit on a chair in a relaxed, upright position. Your knees and feet should be hip width apart. Take a moment to observe your breathing.
  2. Close your mouth and hold your nose.
  3. Try to breathe in deeply. Do you find it difficult? Yes, it is true that it is not working and a negative pressure is being created.
  4. Notice where there is activity in your body: Where does tension arise? Where do you feel the most negative pressure? Where do you feel the most muscle activity?

Aim: By closing your nose when you try to inhale, your breathing muscles, especially the diaphragm, work with maximum tension, but without being able to move. This activates a reflex that subsequently triggers relaxation. Only when a muscle has relaxed after an activity can it muster new strength again - a great mechanism of our body that you can make use of and perhaps know from PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation according to Jacobsen).

This exercise also allows you to feel where the muscles are that allow you to breathe. Try it again and listen to yourself!

Repetitions: two or three times, then take a relaxed breath again.

Suitable for: once a day to feel your breathing activity and relax your diaphragm.

Approach this exercise carefully as it is very demanding on your respiratory muscles.

2) Synergism

– Oriented on the exercise "The floor gives strength back" from the Tanzberger concept


  1. Lie on your stomach with your head on your hands. Start by observing your breathing in this position. Where can you feel your breath moving? Can you feel your pelvic floor expanding downwards with each inhalation, giving space to the diaphragm and organs? (see Part 1: The Processes of Breathing)
  2. Now exhale on "chh" as long as you can and watch what happens in your body. Where is your breathing supported?
  3. Exhale again at "chh". Support this exhalation by activating your pelvic floor. If you need more support, press your pubic bone into the pad.
  4. Exhale to the end and try to keep the airflow constant at "chh". With the inhalation release all tension and let the air flow into you.

Aim: This exercise allows you to feel the synergy between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. In the third step you will learn to allow, actively use and train the support of your muscles (including the pelvic floor) during breathing out.

Repetition: Three to five times, then relax and watch. Don't forget to relax your pelvic floor while you breathe in.

Ideal for: Breath warm-up before practising or as an active break in between.

3) Pelvic cool-down

– Based on the Warm Belly exercise from the Tanzberg Concept –

To relax all your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, let me introduce you to one of my favourite exercises. It's perfect for unwinding after a long rehearsal.


  1. Lie on your stomach and first feel inside how your breathing feels.
  2. Bend your knees and begin to swing your lower legs and feet slowly and calmly past each other. Try not to reach for anything and increase the movement.
  3. Just let yourself move and enjoy the pleasurable mobilisation.

Aim: The swinging movement over a period of two to three minutes leads to greater blood circulation in the entire abdominal, pelvic and hip region. Your body is supplied with fresh nutrients and O₂ and all metabolic waste products are removed. In this way, you promote the regeneration of your muscles and prepare your body optimally for the next exercise session.

Repetitions: two to three minutes.

Suitable as: a daily cool-down after training. Believe me, it's worth sticking with it!

I wish you much joy in understanding and experiencing your breathing!

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