Breathing is the first and single most important thing you do in your life, yet many of us unknowingly breathe in incorrect way. Some are breathing with elevated chest, others breathe with shallow breath. Some may even have headaches associated with overly tensed neck muscles for breathing in a stressful way. In fact, we should use our diaphragm for breathing.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic breathing
Breathing through diaphragm allows one to take normal breaths while maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. It is a way of reducing the stress and triggering the body’s normal relaxation response. Breathing exercises is the foundation for:
Promoting health and vitality
Opening the range and creativity of the emotions
Controlling the moods
Promoting a feeling of connectedness
How to breathe through diaphragm
Diaphragmatic breathing is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing. This belly breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing.
How to check your own usual automatic breathing
Do you usually breathe using the belly and diaphragm or chest? Put one hand on your abdomen and the other one on your chest. Relax completely so that your breathing has little changes. Pay attention to your breathing for about 20-30 seconds. Take 2-3 very slow but deep breaths to feel your breathing in more detail.
Now you know about your usual breathing technique. In order to be certain, you can ask other people to observe how you breathe when you do not pay attention to your breathing (e.g., during sleep, while reading, studying, etc.).
Correct technique- Inhale gently through the nose, no counting required. Allow the air to gently inflate the lower abdomen. This causes the diaphragm to flatten and the lungs to elongate which allows more air to be taken in comfortably.
Do not breathe too deeply or too fast. If you find along with abdomen expansion during inhalation, your upper chest is also inflating and rising, you are breathing incorrectly. If you continue to do so, it will result in tension and stress.
We must see the abdomen rise slightly as we breathe in, as the dome contracts and compresses the abdominal space and increases the intraabdominal pressure. We must also notice the abdomen flattens and relaxes as we breathe out. If we observe young children, this is what we usually see.
Simple exercise to strengthen your diaphragm
Crook lying position – Lie on the floor face up with knees bent.
Use can keep a small pillow under your head if that is more comfortable for you.
Place your hand/hands lightly on your lower abdomen.
Now as you breathe in, concentrate on breathing using the diaphragm muscle and feeling the abdomen rise. Avoid filling air in the chest.
As you breathe out, let abdomen relax and flatten by relaxing the diaphragm.
Progress by placing a small weight on your belly such as a tissue box, your mobile phone or a small book. And repeat all the above steps.
Progress to next stage in sitting position – Place your hands on your lower abdomen again and fill in the air in abdomen as you breathe in. Initially, you will notice this step requires some concentration. And repeat few times.
Progress to next stage in standing – Repeat above steps.