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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Breathing Advice for Flautist

Contributing Author: Rubin, Josh O.T.

Josh RubinJoshua Rubin graduated from American International College with a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. After working with the geriatric population for many years, he decided to take his career to the next level. By incorporating corrective exercise, nutrition and lifestyle coaching with his rehabilitation background, he began working with individuals of all ages within the personal training industry. This is where he found his love for holistic coaching, and as a result of developing San Diego’s EastWest Healing & Performance in 2002, he is one of Southern California’s top Personal Trainer, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and Rehabilitation Specialist.

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Hi! I am looking for information on exercises for the aspiring concert flautist! Do you have any programming/exercise suggestions to help develop her lung capacity and breath control?

When it comes to lung capacity and control, there are a couple of people that you want to see. First, you want to work with a CHEK Practitioner/NLC or physical therapist to work on your structural alignment and nutrition, as well as a singing coach or Tai Chi/Qi Gong instructor to teach you how to breathe properly and improve your control. I have found that posture has a lot to do with increasing lung capacity, as do proper nutrition and meditation. This might sound crazy, but I will explain this to you, to give you an edge on your fellow flutists.

First, let’s define posture, which is the position from which movement begins and ends. Regardless of whether you golf, play an instrument, or are just an average Joe, if you begin with poor posture, the end result will be poor. How does that relate to playing the flute? First, determine whether you are breathing correctly (diaphragmatically) or inverted (using your accessory chest and neck muscles).  Sit up straight in a chair and put one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest. Take a deep breath in and then exhale. What did your hands do? The one on your belly should have moved out (belly protrusion) on the inhalation and have come back in on the exhalation. If your belly or hand did not move at all and the one on your chest went in/out, then you are breathing inverted. This happens if you use the accessory muscles, or the second string, as the starting pitcher. Breathing in this manner can lead to a number of dysfunctions with the respiratory system, as well as chronic neck pain, headaches, decreased lung capacity, shallower breaths, more breaths per minute, decreased peristalsis (constipation), poor lymphatic movement, varicose veins, and on and on and on!

To start, work on breathing correctly, or what is called diaphragmatically. Sit up straight once again, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. The chest will and should move, but only during the last 1/3 of the breath. Take a deep breath in the nose and concentrate on allowing your belly to fill with air like a balloon and protrude out. On exhaling through the mouth with pursed lips, focus on allowing your belly to empty the air out so your hand goes back in. Even though this is the proper way to breathe, most of us breathe incorrectly. The respiratory system is one of the most important systems. If you can’t breath correctly, everything else in your body will not work properly. Check out Paul Chek’s articles and read up on his hierarchy (totem pole) of the body’s systems, muscles, and joints. If for some reason, this breathing exercise is difficult for you to do while sitting up, lie down and do it. Place your hands on your belly, or use something cold (a light weight, glass, etc.) to give you some sensory stimulation.

Once you are breathing correctly, try to get yourself assessed by a CHEK Practitioner ( or a physical therapist in your area. If your body is out of alignment in any direction, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Most of the people I work with have what is called a kyphotic posture (increased curve in the thoracic spine=hunched over). I am assuming that, since you read music a lot and play the flute, you most likely have adapted this type of posture. If your upper body is flexed forward like the right/left picture below, this will alter your breathing pattern, decrease your lung capacity, and make you take shallow, more frequent breaths.

You can do a quick experiment that will help you understand this better. Sit up straight and take a deep breath in and out, making sure that you breathe correctly while maintaining an upright posture. How did that feel? Now do the same thing hunched over. Try to take a deep breath in and out. Pay attention to what you use to accomplish this task as well as how labored your breathing is. Observe your breathing in relation to water in a hose: if you bend a hose (altered posture), the water does not flow as quickly, pressure builds up, and everything has to work harder to allow the water to flow. The same goes with a poorly aligned body. If you look at the middle picture, the body’s air, food, lymphatic fluid, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and waste (poop) flow with ease secondary to the body being upright and in alignment.

Proper nutrition can also assist you in this process. Make sure that you stay clear of the American C.R.A.P. diet:

  1. Coffee/caffeine
  2. Refined/processed foods
  3. Alcohol/aspartame
  4. Pasteurized milk

 All of these foods are considered nonfoods, which take more energy to digest and assimilate than they actually provide you with. If you goal is to be the healthiest/best flute player in the bunch, then avoid these nonfoods. Moreover, most of these nonfoods contain sugar, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, additives, and preservatives, which can have a profound effect on your immune (histamine reactions), digestive, and respiratory systems. They will eventually cause a sympathetic overload to your system, which will put you in a constant state of internal and external stress. I assume that playing the flute while being constipated, dehydrated, and having mental fatigue/fogginess is difficult. To make things simple, follow the principles in Paul Chek’s book, How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy, and you should be fine.

A Tai Chi or Qi Gong specialist can coach you on how to move and breathe more synergistically. Exercising your body in this way, in my opinion, is a very easy way to develop all aspects of your life, with minimal energy involved. Such exercise actually provides us with tons of energy and revitalizes us. Meditating daily will do a lot to develop your breathing skills (by providing your body with life force, energy, or Chi), which will move the entire body towards health and vitality. 

The following two links that I found on the Internet will give you some insight into Qi Gong and breathing:


At this point, my recommendation would be to:

  1. Practice daily meditation (Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, etc.)
  2. Practice your diaphragmatic breathing in the morning and/or night
  3. Eliminate the C.R.A.P. diet foods from your life
  4. Find a CHEK Practitioner or Physical Therapist for an assessment and a singing coach to help you even more with your breathing
  5. Buy Paul’s book to assist you in your process

Hopefully, I have helped you become the best you can be. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions or need some direction.


Joshua Rubin, OTR/L
CHEK Practitioner/NLC