Meet: Dinah Bradley & The Slow Breathing Movement

The first time I paid a visit to nutrition super hero – and now author – Dr. Libby Weaver many years ago, she told me that in many cases, the key to weight loss is as simple as “learning how to breathe properly.” After meeting Dinah Morrison (nee Bradley) I’ve discovered that it’s the key to many things, and essential to having true quality of life.
I first became aware of Dinah’s work around twenty years ago; when as a university student I had an ongoing series of seemingly unexplainable ailments. I was finally referred to a physiotherapist, who diagnosed me with a breathing disorder. She handed me a book to read called Hyperventilation Syndrome/Breathing Pattern Disorders, the author of which was Dinah. After “re-learning” how to breathe over a series of months my symptoms disappeared completely, and I became aware of exactly how much a simple breath in – and out – affects me.
When I meet Dinah many years later it’s at Breathing Works, the first independent Breathing Pattern Disorders clinic in Australasia, which she founded along with Tania Clifton-Smith. Before assessing my own breathing, she confesses that she sees bad breathers everywhere, blaming everything from stress to the gym - the cult of clenching in the abs 24/7 – but says that habits are really quite easy to break when you know how.
She asks me to assume “beach pose” – on my back, hands on my head – which isn’t as easy as it sounds when you get as tense as I do. My neck stiffened and I raised my head to meet my hands, which is hardly the approach I would hope to take if I was on a towel in Fiji! With practice though this can improve, and by my third visit I’m quite the dab hand and feeling all the better for it.
She also talks about how to get in the habit of doing a “neck check”: watching out for forward loading of your head (chook neck) while you’re at your keyboard. Feel the muscles on the front of your neck, then release tension by sitting up straight then gliding your head back until your ears are in line with your shoulders. Sit with your hands behind your head for 30 seconds and breathe through your nose low and slow before feeling the release of tension as you lower your arms. Check this every hour if you can, you’d be surprised at how tight you get.
Breathing is a tool we all have, one of such simplicity that its power is easily overlooked. This tool doesn’t cost a thing, is simple and available to everyone and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. It is, without a doubt, among the most effective antidotes to stress and a key component to wellbeing that we human beings possess.
Not breathing properly equates to stopping or slowing down the flow of energy through our system. The body no longer receives the oxygen it needs to function properly, to eliminate toxins and mobilize the internal organs. The Chinese Daoist master Yu Wen once said ‘Energy being like water, stagnation leads to decay.’ In other words, if we stop the flow of oxygen through our body, inevitably stagnation and illness ensue.
I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to see Dinah to see if you’re breathing tool is on track - she’ll see where you’re at, give you the tools and then it’s up to you how – and if – you use them.
I saw Dinah at her clinic in the fabulous re:ab on Selbourne Street, and you can find more about her work here.
Now… have you been breathing while you’ve been reading this? No? Then get to it!


  1. It's great that you found the treatment so helpful. I hope that other people who may need it know how to access a suitably qualified physiotherapist in their area. Breathing pattern disorders affect many people - it's estimated that between 10 and 30% of New Zealanders have faulty breathing patterns.

    Faulty breathing can cause widespread symptoms that are often very frightening. These symptoms result from both chemical and mechanical changes.

    Chemical changes result from the impact on carbon dioxide levels. The purpose of breathing is to get oxygen in to the body and carbon dioxide out. Over breathing, or hyperventilation syndrome, means too much air is being moved in and out. The problem occurs when too much carbon dioxide is blown out. Carbon dioxide controls many of the body's involuntary functions, so a reduction caused by overbreathing can have widespread impacts. Symptoms that may result include dizziness, anxiety, chest pain, erratic heart beats, upset gut, shortness of breath, tiredness and fatigue.

    Mechanical changes occur as a result of using the wrong muscles for breathing. Use of the upper chest muscles, instead of the diaphragm, creates problems with muscle tightness and overuse. This may lead to neck and back pain, headaches, jaw pain and sinus problems.

    Symptoms caused by overbreathing, or hyperventilation syndrome, can cause significant distress and anxiety. A vicious cycle may develop, where even after the initial trigger has gone, the symptoms themselves can cause anxiety. This leads to further overbreathing and ongoing, unremitting symptoms.

    New Zealanders are lucky to have access to excellent treatment for this disorder. Dinah Bradley and Tania Clifton-Smith (who have established the "BradCliff" method) have set up a nationwide network of physiotherapists, with specialised training in treatment of breathing pattern disorders. To find your local "BradCliff" trained physio, go to and click on the "Find a Physio" link.

    Liz Childs
    BradCliff Physiotherapist

  2. Well done for becoming a better breather convert!
    As Liz Childs has mentioned the chemical changes caused by bad breathing can have a widespread impact on our bodies.Oxygen is often thought of as the key to breathing but the carbon dioxide is the main driver of our respiratory system and if the levels in our blood are low(caused by Hyperventilation or over breathing),it may lead to symptoms such as: dizziness,pins and needles, muscle pain and fatigue,chest pain, palpitations, nausea,headaches and breathlessness.

    "Re-learning" to breathe correctly takes time and practice( 6-8 weeks).The diaphragm is our main breathing muscle and often needs retraining to work more efficiently, but equally important is our NOSE.The nose is our air-conditioning unit,filtering,humidifying and warming the air we breathe.Over-using the mouth also encourages bigger volumes of air at rest.Alot of New Zealanders have problems with poor nasal function from; rhinitis,sinusitis, allergies and direct injury to nasal passages.
    We are fortunate to have such highly skilled Physiotherapists, Dinah Bradley and Tania Clifton-Smith from Breathing Works in Auckland, training the Bradcliff method of breathing to some of our profession.

    Jo Eames
    Bradcliff Physiotherapist
    Focus Health Physiotherapy
    Hawkes Bay


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