The art of breathing
Breathing probably sounds like something you’ve got well and truly covered, but you’d be surprised how many people are doing it wrong! Most of the time, we are breathing too fast and too shallow.
The most efficient way to breathe is through diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing”. This brings more air into your lungs and also strengthens your diaphragm to improve your breathing long term.
What is diaphragmatic breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing brings air down towards the belly, and you will feel your abdomen and chest expand as you breathe in. As your diaphragm contracts, it creates negative space inside your chest, which pulls more air into your lungs.
When practicing diaphragmatic breathing, take air in through your nose as this slows the breath, helping to calm your body and mind, and helps the lungs work more efficiently. It also helps your body to filter toxins from the air and adjust the air to the right temperature for your body.
What are the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing?
When you breathe deeply into your abdomen, your lungs take in more air, which results in a greater supply of oxygen to your body’s tissues. Oxygen supports the health and function of your muscles, organs, nerves and brain, so it’s pretty important!
Diaphragmatic breathing can help with:
● Improved core stability
● Reduced heart rate
● Lower blood pressure
● Relaxation and stress relief
● Improved digestion
● Increased tolerance of intense exercise
● Reduced risk of exercise injury
By strengthening your diaphragm and lungs, and increasing your lung capacity, diaphragmatic breathing can also help in the management of certain lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises
Here are a couple of techniques for practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
Simple diaphragmatic breathing
Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other just below your rib cage. Concentrate on breathing slowly through your nose, pulling the air towards your belly - the hand on your chest should remain still while the hand on your belly should rise. Then tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move back down.
Lie on a flat surface or sit in a comfortable chair. Make sure there are no distractions around you. Close your eyes and visualise a square. Breathe in deeply through your nose, pulling the air towards your belly as you mentally count to four, visualising moving along the top line of the square. Then hold the air in your lungs for a count of four as you visualise moving down the right-hand side of the square. Then breathe out through your mouth for a count of four as you move along the bottom line of the square. Finally, hold your lungs empty for a count of four as you move up the left-hand side of the square.
Repeat four times then gently open your eyes.