Diaphragmatic breathing is a breathing technique which is used to draw air deep into the lungs, causing the lungs to fill entirely with each breath. In addition to filling the lungs, the technique also promotes complete exhalation of air from the lungs. Also known as deep breathing, belly breathing, stomach breathing, and abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing can have a variety of benefits for people who practice it regularly.
In diaphragmatic breathing, the practitioner takes a deep breath without moving his or her chest, forcing the diaphragm to work to inflate the lungs. The diaphragm is a muscle located just below the lungs. As it expands, it enlarges the chest cavity, allowing more air to flow into the lungs by creating suction, and when it contracts, it forces air out of the chest cavity. Even when someone is not practicing diaphragmatic breathing, this muscle plays an active role in respiration.
Many people start practicing diaphragmatic breathing by lying on their backs, with one hand on the chest, and one hand on the upper stomach in the neighborhood of the diaphragm. The practitioner takes a slow, deep breath, working to expand the diaphragm and inflate the lungs, and then a long, strong exhalation which pushes all of the air out of the lungs. The hand of the stomach should move with the diaphragm as breaths are taken, while the hand on the chest should remain still.
People with pulmonary diseases are often encouraged to practice diaphragmatic breathing because it improves lung function, and increases the amount of oxygen absorbed by the lungs. The technique can also be used to manage stress and fear during periods of airway obstruction and difficulty breathing. This technique can also be used to manage stress, tension, and other psychological issues, and people often utilize diaphragmatic breathing or related techniques in the practice of yoga and other movement disciplines.
Several five to 10 minute sessions of diaphragmatic breathing each day can be beneficial. It can feel awkward at first to breathe without moving the chest, but people may note that regular sessions promote feelings of relaxation, focus, and comfort. Taking time to focus on breathing for short periods every day can also act as a miniature break from stresses and tensions of the day, which will contribute to a reduction in stress and tension. Individuals who suffer from pulmonary diseases may want to consider consulting a doctor or respiratory therapist to get more information about diaphragmatic breathing and its benefits.