Your diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle, it resides at the base of your lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm forcing air in and out of your lungs enabling you to breathe. If you’re doing this properly your belly should expand before your lungs fill.
Shallow or chest breathing predominantly makes use of your intercostal muscles rather than your diaphragm meaning that you draw the minimal required breath into your lungs, you’re breathing but you’re not healing.
Belly or diaphragmatic breathing is actually fairly easy to do. It strengthens your diaphragm, requires less energy to breathe and decreases your oxygen demand.
How to breathe
The first couple of times that you try this breathing technique out you might find it easiest to lie down with your back on a flat surface. Your bed would work perfectly.
- Put one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. Doing this will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
- Now, take a slow deep breathe in through your nose so that your stomach moves up against your hand. Your chest should remain as still as possible. In other words, the hand on your chest hand shouldn’t move. You want to breathe in for 4 slow counts
- Now hold the breath for 4 slow counts
- Then tighten your stomach muscles, allowing them to contract inward as you exhale slowly for 6 counts through pursed lips (your mouth). The hand on your stomach will drop while the hand on your chest should remain perfectly still.
Once you get the hang of this you can progress to sitting on a chair.
- Get nice and comfortable sitting on a chair, your feet on the ground about shoulder distance apart.
- Relax your shoulders, head and neck.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other once again below your rib cage. So that you are able to feel your diaphragm move when you breathe.
- Now, take a slow deep breathe in through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. Just as it did when you were lying down the hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. You want to breathe in for 4 slow counts
- Hold the breath for 4 slow counts
- Then tighten your stomach muscles, allowing them to contract inward as you exhale slowly for 6 counts through pursed lips. The hand on your stomach will move inward while the hand on your chest should remain perfectly still.
In the beginning, you might find this tough to do, you may find that holding the breath for a count of 4 is tricky. This is simply because you’re not used to doing it and as with everything in life the more you do it the better you will get.
How often should you do this?
In the beginning, when you’re teaching yourself how to do this you should try and do it first thing in the morning when you wake up and then just before you go to bed. Try and do it for 5-10 mins each time.
Once you get into the groove and you’re doing this in your chair you want to try and do it as often as possible. Even if it’s only for a couple of minutes at a time. Train yourself to do it when you open your computer before you start the day’s work and when you close it at the end of the day. Taking the time to do this before you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner really helps your body digest your food. Eventually, you want to find yourself doing this for the majority of the day.
Keep calm, Breathe, repeat.
Read Part one: are you breathing correctly?