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What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Published July 10, 2020 Read Time: 6 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "", "image": "" } }, "headline":"What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing?", "datePublished":"2020-07-10", "dateModified": "2020-07-10", "description":"Diaphragmatic breathing is an integrative breathing technique that can enhance both mental and physical health. Here's what it is and how to practice it.", "image": "" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is diaphragmatic breathing?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as deep breathing and belly breathing) is a breathing technique used to strengthen your diaphragm and regulate your nervous system. When the diaphragm—a small respiratory muscle found at the bottom of your ribcage—is expanded, it creates pressure in your abdominal cavity that promotes proper posture and stability. It has a potent effect on your body's physiology as well." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What does diaphragmatic breathing do?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "In short, breathing through your diaphragm helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps reduce stress, conserve energy, and keep you healthy. Diaphragmatic breathing shifts the nervous system back to rest and digest mode, helping to preserve energy and keep your body's hormones at the proper levels." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How do you breathe through your diaphragm?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Lie on your back with your knees bent in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale through your nose so that your belly and the hand on it rise (the other hand/chest should stay still). Tighten your core muscles and let them naturally fall inward as you exhale out of your mouth." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Does Diaphragmatic Breathing Do?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">What Is the Difference Between Diaphragmatic Breathing and Belly Breathing?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">How Do You Breathe Through Your Diaphragm?</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Most people know that eating healthy and exercising regularly are keys to staying healthy.</p> <p>What many don't realize is that specific breathing techniques can significantly improve your health, too.</p> <p>Science shows that something called “diaphragmatic breathing” can reduce stress, lower your heart rate, improve posture, and boost muscle recovery after workouts. </p> <p>And because this breathing technique helps regulate certain hormones, it may even help you lose weight!</p> <p>Here's what diaphragmatic breathing is, 6 benefits it offers, and how to start using the technique to transform your body today.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What is diaphragmatic breathing?</h2> <p>Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as "deep breathing" and "belly breathing") is a breathing technique used to strengthen your diaphragm and regulate your nervous system.<sup><a target="_blank" href=",lumbar%20vertebra4%2C%205)." rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup></p> <p>When the diaphragm—a small respiratory muscle found at the bottom of your ribcage—is expanded, it creates pressure in your abdominal cavity that promotes proper posture and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">stability</a>. </p> <p>It has a potent effect on your body's physiology as well. (See the benefits below for more.)</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Yoga and pilates</a>, as well as certain <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">core workouts</a>, integrate diaphragmatic breathing into their exercise routines. It's even used in some forms of alternative medicine to help improve mental health.<sup><a target="_blank" href=",lumbar%20vertebra4%2C%205)." rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>For many people, it takes conscious effort to breathe this way. Many of us (without realizing it) take oxygen in through our chest, which can cause problems you might not even be aware of.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What does diaphragmatic breathing do?</h2> <p>In short, breathing through your diaphragm helps activate the <i>parasympathetic</i> nervous system, which helps <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">reduce stress</a>, conserve energy, and keep you healthy.</p> <p>Your body's autonomic nervous system (a communication network that sends signals to and from your body's major organs) consists of 2 parts<sup><a target="_blank" href=",%E2%80%9Crest%20and%20digest%E2%80%9D%20functions." rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>The <i>sympathetic nervous system</i> (also called the "fight or flight" system): speeds up your body's physiology to prepare you for strenuous physical activity.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></li> <li>The <i>parasympathetic nervous system</i> (also called the "rest and digest" system): tells your body's physiology to ramp down; it limits the energy used by the body to basic needs, like pumping your heart and keeping your immune system active.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a>, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>Whether you realize it or not, you breathe through your chest when you exercise. But many people also chest breathe when they're on edge or stressed out.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></p> <p>When you're in sympathetic mode all the time, your body wastes precious energy by releasing powerful hormones like adrenaline. It can be like there's a "hum" of anxiety or stress hanging out in the background that you don't even notice after a while.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></p> <p>Diaphragmatic breathing shifts the nervous system back to "rest and digest" mode, helping to preserve energy and keep your body's hormones at the proper levels.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup></p> <p>And the benefits of this are well-researched and pretty remarkable.</p> <h3>6 benefits of diaphragmatic breathing</h3> <p>Shifting from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone can improve your health and wellness drastically. Check out these 6 health benefits:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Improved mental health</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup> - A 2018 study found that diaphragmatic breathing increased feelings of comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, and alertness. At the same time, it reduced anxiety, stress, depression and confusion!</li> <li><strong>Reduced cortisol levels</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup> - Cortisol, a stress hormone in the body, is another chemical released when your body is in sympathetic mode.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup> Studies show excess cortisol can cause belly fat to accumulate and increase appetite. This means diaphragmatic breathing could potentially be a useful tool for losing weight.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup></li> <li><strong>Lower heart rate and blood pressure</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a>, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup> - When your body enters fight or flight mode, your heart rate increases rapidly (it's preparing to run or encounter a physical obstacle). The opposite is true in rest or digest mode—the heart rate relaxes your physiology, helping to preserve energy and downgrade how hard your cardiovascular system has to work.</li> <li><strong>Improved posture</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href=",lumbar%20vertebra4%2C%205)." rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a></sup> - A strong diaphragm and activated deep core muscles both help promote <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">better posture</a> when sitting and standing.</li> <li><strong>Improved core stability</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href=",lumbar%20vertebra4%2C%205)." rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup> - Similar to improved posture, activating the deep muscle tissue inside your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">core</a> helps keep your spine strong and better protected from injury.</li> <li><strong>Improved workout recovery</strong><sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a></sup> - At least one study found that diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce oxidative stress caused by exercise. This means deep breathing after a workout may help you recover quicker in between sessions, and that you might feel better faster after particularly challenging sessions.</li> </ol> <p>As you can see, learning to breathe diaphragmatically is incredibly beneficial and nourishing for the body and mind.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">19</a></sup></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>What is the difference between belly breathing and diaphragmatic breathing?</h2> <p>Diaphragmatic and belly breathing are very similar. Sometimes, the terms are used interchangeably.</p> <p>The major difference between the two breathing techniques is that diaphragmatic breathing emphasizes deep inhales that activate the diaphragm muscle and deep core muscles.</p> <p>Belly breathing, on the other hand, is simply focused on inhaling air through your belly, not your chest.</p> <p>Of the two, diaphragmatic breathing is a more intentional and valuable technique. It will likely take more practice to do correctly, but you'll receive far more from using it.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>How do you breathe through your diaphragm?</h2> <p>The best way to learn how to breathe through your diaphragm is to lie on your back and use your hands to guide each breath into your lower abdomen, and not your chest.</p> <p>Here's how to do it:</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="LYING DEEP BREATHING"> <ul> <li>Lie on your back with your knees bent in a comfortable position.</li> <li>Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.</li> <li>Inhale through your nose so that your belly and the hand on it rise (the other hand/chest should stay still).</li> <li>Tighten your core muscles and let them naturally fall inward as you exhale out of your mouth*.</li> </ul> <p><i>*Purse your lips on the exhale so that the air leaving your lunges makes a noise on the way out.</i></p> <p>There are 3 simple ways you can start practicing this breathing technique:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Build up your count</strong>- You can make a "game" out of diaphragmatic breathing by slowly increasing the number of seconds you breathe in and out. Practice the technique listed above, and try to slowly take longer and longer inhales and exhales (1 second in, 1 second out, then 2 seconds in, 2 out, etc*.. </li> <p><i>*Stop completely or reduce the number of seconds you're inhaling if you feel lightheaded or out of breath. It's probably best to learn the technique doing one second breaths first for at least a week before trying to go longer.</i></p> <li><strong>While walking</strong>- You can make another "game" out your deep breathing practice by inhaling for a set number of steps (i.e. 3 steps inhale, 3 steps exhale) while walking. Remember that walking is a form of cardio, so you probably won't be able to hold it for as long as you would lying down.</li> <li><strong>While stretching</strong>- Stretching is a fantastic time to practice diaphragmatic breathing for two reasons: It can help you practice deep belly breathing in different positions, and (because the breath you're doing actually promotes muscle relaxation) it can help <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">improve flexibility</a>.</li> </ol> <p>You can also pair your diaphragmatic breathing practice with <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">abdominal bracing</a> before and after workouts. Both will help activate the deep core muscles.</p> <p>Sometimes, improving your health can seem difficult or overwhelming. </p> <p>But that's just one more reason to implement diaphragmatic breathing into your routine. It's incredibly easy to implement and is beneficial for both your body and mind.</p> <p>Try practicing the technique at the end of each workout you do for the next 2 weeks and see how you feel. We think you're going to love it! </p> </section> </article>

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