Diaphragmatic breathing is vital for relaxation and respiratory training. It involves contraction of diaphragm muscles thus resulting to abdominal expansion. This is contrary to traditional breathing technique that expands the chest.
High endurance activities such as swimming and cycling boost the performance of respiratory muscles. Simple activities can also be undertaken to stimulate activation of the diaphragm. In fact, the removal of waste products as well as supply of oxygen via respiration will influence an individual’s performance regardless of strength of the work done.
The diaphragm is located in the rib cage, forming an arc. It is a primary aid in the breathing process alongside lungs and the intercostal muscles. During inhalation, both the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles contract to lower the pressure in the thoracic cavity allowing the air into the lungs (diaphragm goes down). During exhalation, both the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles relax, thus pushing the air out of the lungs (diaphragm goes up). Air may however, be forced out more rapidly if the abdominal pressure is increased in conjunction with the abdominal muscles.
Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called “abdominal breathing” or “belly breathing”, serves to relax muscles and massage the internal organs, eventually allowing more quantities of oxygen to flow throughout the body.
Steps for Diaphragmatic Breathing
To do this exercise, you should place yourself in a room free from all forms of disturbance.
If you’re a beginner, you may lie on the ground over a soft covering such as a carpet on the back. With more practice, the goal would be to do this technique in a seated and standing position.
You should inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Your chest should remain as still as possible. As you breathe in, your stomach moves out and as you breathe out, your stomach moves in. Feel the diaphragm as it rises and falls.
After mastering the process of breathing into the diaphragm, you may try to follow consciously the flow of the breath. It should be smoothened and made gentle if it feels unstable. You shouldn’t speed up your breath until you discover a rhythm.
Frequency of Practice
The exercise should take between 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day for beginners. As you grasp the basics and gets used to it, the intensity may gradually increase to any frequency you like. An increased effort is however required to correctly use diaphragm.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Ensures a stabilized heart beat
- Reduces stress and anxiety (lowers cortisol, the stress hormone)
- Increased efficiency in oxygen absorption and supply
- Expands lungs
- Detoxifies the body (flushing of toxic chemicals from the body)
- Increases concentration
- Strengthens muscles of chest
- Improves quality of sleep
- Strengthens the immune system
- Increases stamina
- Improves digestion
- Cuts the possibility of diabetes
- Cuts risks of premature aging