Diaphragmatic breathing is a deep breathing technique that can promote relaxation and benefit your overall health and wellness. Let’s go into a deep dive of what this technique is and how you can use it to your advantage.
The Diaphragm…What Is That?
The diaphragm is our primary muscle of respiration (breathing). It is a dome-shaped muscle that is located below the lungs, separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. When we breathe in, the diaphragm flattens and descends to allow our lungs to expand. When we breathe out, it rises and returns to its resting position as our lungs deflate.
Why Is This Important?
The diaphragm is designed to help us breathe efficiently, but many of us do not utilize it effectively. Instead, many people use their “accessory muscles,” which are located in the chest and neck and between the ribs. When we use the accessory muscles as the primary muscles of respiration, rather than the diaphragm, we are compromising the efficiency of our breathing.
How Can I Tell If I’m Using My Diaphragm When I Breathe?
Place one hand over your chest and one hand over your belly. Take a deep breath, and notice which hand rises more. If your bottom hand rises more, you are recruiting your diaphragm during inspiration. However, if your top hand rises more, you are primarily using your accessory muscles to breathe.
What Are The Benefits Of Learning To Use My Diaphragm?
There are numerous benefits to performing diaphragmatic breathing, including improved overall respiratory function. When the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, the lungs have more room to expand. This encourages us to take deeper breaths and fill our lungs, resulting in improved oxygenation. In turn, this may improve our ability to tolerate strenuous aerobic exercise. Diaphragmatic breathing has also been shown to help stabilize blood pressure and decrease heart rate. Additionally, it promotes good posture and helps us engage our core muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing is also an excellent relaxation technique that can be used to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
How Can I Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing?
It is best to learn this technique while lying on your back. (Note: If you have a condition that prevents you from lying flat, this technique can also be performed in a reclined or seated position.) Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. Focus on “filling up” your bottom hand and making it rise more than your top hand. Ideally, your top hand should remain relatively still. Breathe in through your nose for a count of two, pause, then breathe out through pursed lips for a count of four. Repeat this for several minutes. To promote relaxation, you can dim the lights in the room or close your eyes.
Who Should Be Using This Technique?
Diaphragmatic breathing can help improve respiratory function in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other pulmonary disorders, but everyone can benefit from learning to use their diaphragm to optimize breathing.
Check out the video posted on the FYZICAL Rockville Facebook or FYZICAL Rockville YouTube page to view a demonstration of the diaphragmatic breathing technique to improve your overall health and wellness.