Believe it or not, most of us don't breathe correctly throughout the day. We tend to breathe from our chest, but what we should be doing is called diaphragmatic breathing, and it has numerous health benefits.
What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?
In simple terms, diaphragmatic breathing is breathing from your belly. Your diaphragm is a large muscle that sits at the base of your lungs, contracting to pull air in and then expanding to push it out.
You can consciously affect how much your diaphragm is involved in breathing. When you "belly breathe," you should see your stomach rising and falling.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises are practiced by singers and players of wind instruments, as well as by athletes, but learning how to breathe from your diaphragm can benefit all of us.
What are the Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing provides a number of benefits, which include:
- Strengthening core muscles, which in turn improves posture
- Relieving muscle tension
- Increasing oxygen exchange, which can help with concentration and brain activity
- Strengthening the diaphragm itself, which in turn strengthens the lungs
- Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
- Increasing blood flow to muscles
- Relieving anxiety and stress
How to do Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing techniques don't come naturally to those who have not done them before. The basic technique involves:
- Lying on a flat surface on your back, with a pillow under your head and another under your knees.
- Place one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your stomach.
- Slowly inhale, focusing on having your stomach move rather than your chest.
- Tighten the abdominal muscles and exhale through pursed lips.
People with lung conditions should practice this under supervision, as it can initially worsen symptoms even though it is beneficial in the long run.
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