5 Amazing Benefits to Diaphragmatic Breathing Can Make Your Life Stress Free and Improve Airway Functions!
Health Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing
It is no surprise that how we breathe can affect our body and mind. If our body and mind are relaxed, for example, the breathing rate tends to be slow and not forceful. If we are stressed or undergoing strenuous physical activity, however, our breathing rate tends to be fast and forceful.
In fact, the link between breath, body, and mind can be used to our advantage and help us cope with stressful situations and pain- think of breathing exercises during labor. One such breathing technique is diaphragmatic breathing, ” which can help us control our nerves to remain calm, boost our attention span, and even drop cortisol levels (Xiao Et al, 2017).
What is the Diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle found at the base of the lungs that helps divide the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. More importantly, the diaphragm is the muscle we use the most for breathing. It flattens when it contracts, increasing the space in the chest cavity and creating a negative pressure that helps pull air into the lungs during inhalation.
When it relaxes, the diaphragm returns to its original dome-shape and helps push air out of the lungs during exhalation. Most of the time the diaphragm contracts involuntarily (we just breathe), but it can also be controlled voluntarily (think of holding your breath).
Sometimes called “belly breathing” or “deep breathing,” diaphragmatic breathing offers a wide range of health benefits. It helps individuals strengthen their diaphragm thereby improving oxygen intake and boosting lung function.
Focusing on the diaphragm while breathing also helps rest other respiratory muscles of the chest and neck (like the intercostals, scalenes, and sternocleidomastoid) and require less energy. This is especially important for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as chronic bronchitis.
Healthy individuals can also benefit from diaphragmatic breathing, however, as it helps calm the nerves, improve cognition, reduce blood pressure, and balance emotions. A study carried out by Xiao Et al. showed that 20 sessions of diaphragmatic training over 8 weeks in otherwise healthy adults improved their attention span and lowered negative emotions (negative affect) as well as cortisol levels compared to baseline (2017). This research suggests that even short interventions of diaphragmatic breathing can prove beneficial to even healthy adults in coping with the stresses of daily life.
How To Do It?
Diaphragmatic breathing can be done while laying down, sitting, or standing, but laying down seems to help a lot of people get it right. Lay down in a comfortable position, maybe put a pillow below your neck and knees. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, breathe in slowly, and expand your belly as you inhale (the hand on your chest should hardly move). Exhale slowly and collapse your belly as you exhale (again the hand on your chest should hardly move). Once you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing in different positions.
We are living in stressful times where our lung and heart health are of utmost importance. Finding ways to cope with stress while also promoting cardiorespiratory fitness is ideal for improving our health and protecting not only ourselves but also our loved ones. Diaphragmatic breathing is a cheap, drug-free approach to lowering our blood pressure, calming our nerves and boosting lung function- it doesn’t get better than this.
- Xiao, M., Zi-Qi, Y., Zhu-Qing, G., & Zhang, H. (2017, June 6). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28626434/