Little Tiny Action Steps: Diaphragm Breathing
Dr. Jennifer Rizzo
Normally we don’t think about our breathing, it happens naturally. When we breath efficiently there are many benefits including creating a full oxygen exchange, meaning you take in more valuable oxygen each time you breath. It also lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, decreases heart rate, prevents overusing muscles in the shoulder and upper back and improves core muscle stability. Diaphragm breathing is the most efficient type of breathing and promotes all of the above benefits.
The anatomy of how we breath helps us understand why we should be diaphragmic breathing. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage. Take your fingers and trace the bottom on your ribs, that is the same shape of the muscle. The diaphragm pulls air into the lungs when it contracts and pushes the air out when we exhale.
When we breath the top of the dome of the diaphragm contracts and pulls the muscle down toward the base of the rib cage, so it is almost in a straight line. The movement of the diaphragm pushes the internal organs in the abdominal cavity together and forces the belly to bulge outward. In order for the belly to bulge our abdominal muscles need to be relaxed. When we breath out, the abdominal muscles contract and the dome of the diaphragm rises pushing the lungs up, air out and the internal organs move back into a resting position. Movement of the organs during breathing is like a massage every couple seconds and very important to help move fluids and toxins through the organs.
**This diagram demonstrates what the diaphragm muscle is doing while breathing.
See how the diaphragm muscle pulls down and then rises as the person breathes
forcing the belly is rise and fall as well. It is not blowing out your belly, rather
allowing it to rise and fall naturally.
How to diaphragm breath:
· Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that's more comfortable.
· Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
· Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
· Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.
· You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed.
· Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.
Like anything, diaphragm breathing takes practice. For those that have been chest breathing for years, this habit will not go away easily. To start, practice diaphragm breathing while meditating or being still. After you are able to breath lying down then practice sitting, standing and eventually while working out. This can take a while to master, practice often!