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If you do JUST ONE exercise today – make it diaphragmatic breathing. Not only is it EASY, it’s relaxing, and gives you many health benefits along the way.

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing or abdominal breathing, is a breathing technique that involves engaging your diaphragm, a large muscle located between your chest and abdomen.

This type of breathing offers several physical and psychological benefits you can take advantage of from anywhere without any equipment required.

How Diaphragmatic Breathing Improves Your Health

Stress Reduction: Diaphragmatic breathing is an effective way to activate the body’s relaxation response, the parasympathetic nervous system. When you focus on breathing deeply and slowly using your diaphragm, it can help lower stress hormone levels, reduce muscle tension, and promote a sense of calm.

Pain Management: Deep breathing can be used as part of pain management strategies to help alleviate discomfort and promote relaxation.

Improved Oxygenation: Deep breathing allows you to take in more oxygen with each breath, which can improve oxygen circulation throughout your body. This can lead to increased energy levels, better cognitive function, and enhanced physical performance.

Lowered Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health. It eases the workload on your heart and can be particularly helpful for individuals with hypertension.

Enhanced Lung Function: This type of breathing encourages the use of your entire lung capacity, which can improve lung function and respiratory efficiency. It can be especially beneficial for people with conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Improved Digestion: Deep breathing can stimulate the relaxation response in your body, which in turn can enhance digestion and alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Better Sleep: Practicing diaphragmatic breathing before bedtime can help you relax and prepare your body for sleep, potentially improving the quality of your sleep.

Enhanced Mental Clarity: Deep breathing can help clear your mind, increase mental clarity, and improve concentration and cognitive function.

Stress and Anxiety Management: Diaphragmatic breathing is a valuable tool for managing stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. It can help you stay calm, focused, and in control during stressful situations.

Emotional Regulation: Deep breathing can assist in regulating emotions and improving emotional resilience. It can be particularly useful in situations where you want to remain calm and composed.

How the Diaphragm Works

When you take a breath in, the diaphragm contracts and flattens. This contraction causes the diaphragm to move downward, which increases the volume of the thoracic cavity. As the thoracic cavity expands, it creates a negative pressure inside the lungs relative to the outside air. This pressure difference allows air to be drawn into the lungs through the airways.

Exhalation is typically a passive process during quiet breathing at rest. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its curved, resting position. The elastic recoil of the lungs and chest wall, along with the decrease in thoracic cavity volume, causes air to be expelled from the lungs.

During vigorous physical activity or when you need to exhale forcefully, additional muscles, such as the intercostal muscles between the ribs and the abdominal muscles, may contract to assist the diaphragm in pushing air out more forcefully.

This process of diaphragmatic contraction and relaxation is fundamental to normal, rhythmic breathing and ensures that your body receives the oxygen it needs for various physiological processes while removing carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, from the body.

How To Do Diaphragmatic Breathing

Incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into your daily routine can be a simple and effective way to promote overall well-being and manage stress and even pain levels. It’s a skill that can be learned and practiced anytime, anywhere, making it a valuable tool for maintaining both physical and mental health. There are different types of diaphragmatic breathing, so if you’ve never done it before, start with deep belly breathing and work your way into other breathing patterns.

Deep Belly Breathing:

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Feel your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs with air and then you’ll feel your rib cage slightly expand sideways
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of five, feeling your abdomen fall.
  • Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen, not your chest.
  • Work your way up to longer inhale and exhale times keeping your exhale longer than your inhale to improve your oxygen benefits

Box Breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  • Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Repeat the cycle for several rounds.

4-7-8 Breathing:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four.
  • Feel your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs with air and then you’ll feel your rib cage slightly expand sideways
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight.
  • Repeat this cycle for a few minutes.

Belly Breathing with Visualization:

  • Find a quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and imagine a balloon in your abdomen.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose, imagining the balloon inflating as your belly expands.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, visualizing the balloon deflating as your belly contracts.
  • Focus on the sensation of the balloon expanding and contracting with each breath.

Diaphragmatic Breathing with Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

  • Combine diaphragmatic breathing with progressive muscle relaxation. Start at your toes and work your way up, tensing and then relaxing each muscle group as you breathe deeply.

Guided Diaphragmatic Breathing Meditation:

  • Use guided meditation or mindfulness apps that lead you through diaphragmatic breathing exercises.

Yoga and Tai Chi:

  • Yoga and Tai Chi incorporate diaphragmatic breathing as a fundamental part of their practice. Consider taking classes or following along with instructional videos to learn these techniques.

Breathing While Walking:

  • Incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into your daily routine by practicing it while walking. Focus on your breath and synchronize it with your steps to promote relaxation and mindfulness.

Practical Tips for Diaphragmatic Breathing

The ideal duration for practicing diaphragmatic breathing can vary from person to person and depends on your specific goals and needs. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

Starting Point: If you are new to diaphragmatic breathing or have not practiced it regularly, start with shorter sessions of about 5-10 minutes. This allows you to become familiar with the technique and gradually build your capacity.

Frequency: Consistency is key. Aim to practice diaphragmatic breathing daily or at least several times a week. Regular practice can help you incorporate this beneficial breathing technique into your routine.

Progression: As you become more comfortable with diaphragmatic breathing, gradually increase the duration of your practice. You can work your way up to 15-20 minutes or longer, depending on your goals and preferences.

Integration: Consider incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into various aspects of your daily life. For example, practice it during moments of stress, before bedtime to relax, or even during exercise to optimize your breathing patterns.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body responds to diaphragmatic breathing. If you feel relaxed, focused, and energized after a session, it’s a positive sign. If you experience any discomfort or strain, shorten the duration or adjust your technique.

Quality Over Quantity: The quality of your diaphragmatic breathing is more important than the quantity of time spent. Focus on deep, controlled breaths rather than rushing through a long session.

Customize to Your Needs: Tailor your practice to your specific goals. If you’re using diaphragmatic breathing for stress relief, shorter, focused sessions may be sufficient. However, if you’re incorporating it into an exercise routine or for health reasons, longer sessions may be beneficial.

Ultimately, the goal of diaphragmatic breathing is to make it a natural part of your daily life and to use it as a tool to manage stress, improve relaxation, enhance your overall well-being, and optimize your breathing patterns. The duration of your practice should align with your individual needs and preferences, and you can adjust it as necessary to achieve your desired outcomes.

Try it out today and notice the difference in your physical and mental health.