Diaphragmatic Breathing


Name

Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, deep breathing

Purpose/Effects

Diaphragmatic breathing not only optimizes the breathing process, improving oxygen delivery to the organs, but it relaxes the whole body, helping to relieve stress or anxiety and to increase energy. It is one of the easiest, quickest, and most effective ways to improve the function of both body and mind.

Method

Summary

Breath slowly and deeply from your abdomen rather than from your chest.

Long Version

First, check to see if you naturally breath from your diaphragm (the muscle between the chest and the abdomen) or from your chest. Place one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen, between your navel and your ribcage. Breathe naturally. Whichever hand rises more than the other determines if you are a chest breather or an abdominal breather.

  1. With a hand on your chest and another on your abdomen, exhale completely, emptying the lungs.
  2. Breath slowly and deeply in through your nose. Try to completely fill your lungs with air, imagining them expanding to maximum capacity, keeping the hand on your chest still while letting the hand on your abdomen rise with the inhalation. Hold this breath for a count of five.
  3. Slowly exhale through gently pursed lips while contracting your abdominal muscles (your “core”) to completely empty your lungs of air, as if you were squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. Once again, let the hand on your abdomen fall while keeping the hand on your chest still. This should last for about a count of ten.
  4. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes throughout the day. It becomes easier with time, as you strengthen your diaphragm and train your body to breathe better.
  5. When you begin to feel anxious, stressed, or angry in the future, take the time to breath deeply and slowly from the diaphragm, allowing the exercise to relax you.

History

Both Western and Eastern traditions agree on the importance of proper breathing technique to maximize the body's efficient use of oxygen.  Deep breathing exercises have been a part of the yoga tradition for millennia.  For more information on how breathing can strengthen mind and spirit, read the article on Breath Awareness Meditation listed below.

Cautions

For persons with lung problems or those who simply have weak diaphragms, this exercise could be quite tiring at first. Be sure not to overly strain or injure yourself and stop if you begin to feel discomfort. If you know yourself to have serious pulmonary issues, consult a doctor before attempting diaphragmatic breathing.

Notes

Diaphragmatic breathing can help in the management of hyperventilation and anxiety disorders due to its ability to calm the mind and body. Many people with these problems find it helpful in times of stress.

See Also

Bellows Breathing / Breath of Fire
Breath Awareness Meditation

External Links

A yogic perspective on diaphragmatic breathing.

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