Breathe in!

Why is it (here in Scotland anyway) that when someone wants to squeeze past you in a crowded space, they will say “Breathe in!” as if that will make it easier, while in fact the act of breathing in will expand the lungs/abdominal cavity of the obstructor, causing them to take up more space, and hence making passing them more difficult?

The idea is that you will suck in your gut, which for most people is the body part that creates the most obstruction to passing by. While it is counterintuitive, it is still true that most people inhale when they do this.

Hope this helps.

The chest may expand but the belly contracts. the chest does not expand as far as the belly originaly was so you fit through (better). It probably only works for fat people (because thin people’s belly is already level with their chest (except women))

What if you do abdominal breathing such as that found in yoga etc?

I stand by my answer. Most people will draw in their abdomens when they breath in sharply. This may be cultural, however.

You would have to hold your breath and try to expand your chest to really suck up-and-in your guts. But just sucking on them would give them not much room to go to. On the contrary, the volume of the chest would increase a bit and then stay the same, not substantially changing the cross section of below.

I don’t know how much we can squeeze our guts with the belly muscles, but a better approach would be to first freely breathe in with the rib cage muscles only. The volume and the cross section of your rib cage increases. If you don’t move your diaphragm, the height of your intestines doesn’t change. The bigger cross section above them pulls on their breadth, but they can’t change their volume. So they have to respond by decreasing their cross section below, pulling together sideways.
That’s the “Breathe in!” part.

Since the broadest point of a Scotsman of average weight isn’t his chest (:)), he can make himself as flat as possible by breathing in, equalizing his upper and lower halves. After doing that and while you pass by, he will additionally try to pull in the last bit of belly with the sucking method.
That’s the “Hmmmmpf” part.