What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing? Is It Good for Me?

What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing? Is It Good for Me?

Take a deep breath. Now, let it out slowly. Did your chest rise and fall, or did your stomach expand and contract? That’s the difference between shallow breathing and diaphragm breathing. Research indicates that breathing from deep in your belly, rather than from your chest (as many of us tend to do), may help reduce stress, stabilize blood pressure and support your health. Read on as we discuss what diaphragm breathing is and how to use it to your advantage — plus, we share a deep breathing technique you can try starting today.

What is diaphragm breathing?

Also called diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing, diaphragm breathing is, simply, a type of breathing you do while engaging your diaphragm.

A dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lungs, the diaphragm is the major muscle of respiration (surprisingly, it’s not your lungs!). As the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains, when you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. This action increases the space in your chest cavity — allowing your lungs to expand and fill with air. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, moving upward into the chest cavity and helping to push carbon dioxide-rich air out of your lungs.

Diaphragm breathing is often associated with meditation, yoga and martial arts, but it’s a practice we all can use and benefit from. Unfortunately, due to stress and poor posture, many of us breathe mainly from our chests, rather than from our diaphragms.

Deep breathing benefits

Why change how you breathe? Well, belly breathing not only allows for more efficient oxygen exchange, but it’s also good for your mental and physical health. Here are some of the deep breathing benefits supported by science:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety
  2. Improved heart health
  3. Sustained attention
  4. Quicker post-workout recovery
  5. Weight management

How to breathe from your diaphragm

Here is how to breathe from your diaphragm, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

  1. Find a comfortable place, such as your bed, couch or a mat on the floor. Lie down, using pillows to prop up your body so you are completely comfortable.
  2. With your knees bent or legs straight, place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. It does not matter which hand you place where.
  3. Breathing through your nose, inhale deeply. You will feel the hand on your stomach slowly start to rise, while the hand on your chest should remain fairly still.
  4. At the top of your inhale, pause for a moment, then exhale through pursed lips (imagine you are gently blowing out a candle). As you exhale, you will feel the hand on your stomach slowly fall. Again, the hand on your chest should remain fairly still.
  5. Continue practicing for 5 to 10 minutes. Aim to practice most days of the week — the more you do this deep breathing exercise, the more natural it will become.

Breathing from your diaphragm can take a little practice if you are not used to it. However, with time, you can shift to breathing from your belly rather than your chest — and reap the benefits.

By Curves/Jenny Craig, Brittany Risher. Learn more about how to care for yourself from the inside out at Aloha Curves/Jenny Craig. Call to schedule a free consultation today at 503-356-5454.