Diaphragmatic Breathing

Lets talk about breathing, shall we? Now, take a deep breath! What have you noticed? If your neck, chest and shoulders. Didn’t move or engaged in any way and your belly expanded to the front, sides and back- congratulations! Your are using your diaphragm and here are some benefits of deep belly breathing:

Here are more benefits this type of breathing can have:

  • It helps you relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body.
  • It lowers your heart rate.
  • It helps lower your blood pressure.
  • It helps you cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • It improves your core muscle stability.
  • It improves your body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise.
  • It lowers your chances of injuring or wearing out your muscles.
  • It slows your rate of breathing so that it expends less energy.
  • One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is reducing stress.

Now, what if your chest puffs up and out and upper back arches, belly moves in as rib cage narrows and abs tighten, shoulders tense and move toward ears. It means, you are not activating your diaphragm and as a result, your HR goes up, blood pressure goes up and your immune systems goes down. Even, if you are in the middle of a massage or watching a comedy show, as long as you breathe with your chest- your body thinks you are stressed out.

The trouble starts in elementary school. Most of young kids are horizontal breathers- just watch a kid breathe! On the inhale, it looks like there’s a balloon in their bellies- air enters and expands the biggest part of their lungs. But once they are in the classroom, they pick up the bad posture that comes from sitting all day. And slumping crushes your diaphragm muscles and blocks lower lungs from expanding. It gets worse for women, since there is the pressure to have flat stomach, they just don’t want to expand their middle each time they breathe.

So what can we do about it?

Try these exercises:

  1. Breath counting. Sit in a comfortable position with back straight, close eyes, and take a few deep belly breaths, counting from one as your exhale each time, up to five. Start over and continue up to 10 minutes.
  2. Hold the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, (if it feels awkward, slightly purse your lips). Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose as you count to four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound again for a count of eight. Repeat the cycle three more times.