Looking for a quick and easy technique to calm your nerves, decrease stress, reduce pain, or ease your tension headache? Even if you just need to settle yourself down to concentrate at the task at hand, diaphragmatic breathing is an easy technique to learn and practice anytime.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a fancy way of saying belly breathing, or a deeper kind of breathing from the lower portion of your lungs. It is a better way to breathe, in that by involving your diaphragm muscle located at the base of your lungs in each breath, you will actually get better oxygen exchange into your bloodstream. While oxygen is used in the tissues for energy and metabolism, maximizing the oxygen levels in the body can actually help to promote healing, induce relaxation of the nervous system, and improve muscle repair and function. Because the diaphragm is located just behind the lower ribs, the movement associated with diaphragmatic breathing helps mobilize the ribs and the thoracic spine, which helps relieve rib and thoracic spine tightness, tension, and pain.
How do you perform diaphragmatic breathing? Simply follow these four easy steps…
- Take a deep breath in, trying to push your belly out as you “fill it” with air. (Think of having a pregnant or Santa Claus belly!)
- Exhale slowly.
- Repeat, exaggerating outward movement of the belly.
- Check your work: there should be NO actual chest movement when you breathe. (Really!) There also should be no shoulder movement when you breathe. While these areas may contribute to breathing if you have a medically diagnosed breathing or lung condition, in normal, healthy individuals who are breathing at rest, these areas of the body should not be moving when you breathe.