Breathing is one of the most important and vital acts we do. Our breathing alters in pattern and rhythm at different times of the day and in different emotional states, for example sighing in despair or panting with exhaustion.
Breathing is one of the few bodily processes that can either be voluntary or involuntary. Breathing can take place automatically without thinking about it, or we can alter it consciously and at will.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle, which separates our chest and abdomen. When we breathe in the diaphragm tightens, flattens and moves down, sucking air into the lungs. As the diaphragm moves down, it pushes the abdominal contents down, which forces the abdominal wall out. When we breathe out the diaphragm relaxes, air passes out of the lungs and the abdominal wall flattens.
What are the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing or deep breathing) helps a person engage the diaphragm fully while breathing. This may provide a number of health benefits, including
- strengthening the diaphragm
- improving stability in the core muscles and your ability to withstand more exercise
- slowing the breathing rate to use less energy
- reducing oxygen demand
- promoting relaxation, lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body
- Improving mood and energy levels.
- Minimising pain
Image credit: www.activekid.com
How to try diaphragmatic breathing
Deep breathing should be slow and gentle. Make sure you’re in a supported and comfortable position, allowing your shoulders to be relaxed. Take a slow deep breath in. Remember to fill the abdomen, not just the chest. A simple way to make sure you are doing this is to place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in deeply and make sure your hand on your stomach is rising. Let your breath go and release the tension from your body. Only try a few breaths at a time. Try to practice and fit it into your day wherever you can.
Lisa Lees BHSc (Hons), MSCSP
If you would like to try this breathing technique our Chartered Physiotherapist, Lisa Lees will be able to guide you with the correct diaphragmatic breathing technique and show you how to get the most from this useful technique.
To book an appointment please call:
Ashbourne: 01335 344952
Hilton: 01283 777070
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