Do you know what diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is? It is a breathing method that should be naturally done by everyone however poor posture and social pressures prevent it. First what is it and why is it beneficial? Quite simply, many people are chest breathers which does not fully expand the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing increases the oxygenation of the lungs and blood. More oxygen is good. How this is done is by letting the belly relax and the diaphragm to drop downwards so that there is expansion around the level of the belly button, and also at the sides and even behind the back a bit.
This method of breathing has the movement happen below the ribs primarily, and can decrease tightness around the shoulders as some people use those muscles to help breath.
So why do people often NOT breathe in this natural way?
- One is posture, people spend a lot of time sitting, and if they are hunched forward like I was in high school the belly cannot expand and thus they are a chest breather.
- The other reason is that they may be self conscious of people thinking they are fat because they are belly breathing. I know I was.
Here are three things to work on to master the aspect of air. Hopefully you are now starting to think that there is more to breathing than you thought.
Step 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing
Using the instructions above, spend several minutes per day practicing this breathing and then check in on your breathing periodically. Which type are you doing? If chest breathing correct it and see how you feel afterwards. Less tension in the shoulders? More relaxed? Good!
Step 2: Breathing Exercises
We can become better at anything we practice, and being stronger at it helps too! This is a very common type of breathing done in tai chi or chi gong. There are 3 stages of breathing, though most would only think of 2 of those. They are: Inhale –> Hold –> Exhale. The hold could be 1 second, or 10 seconds, etc. In through the nose, hold, exhale through the mouth. The breathing should be audible. When exhaling, do it slowly by putting the tongue on the roof of your mouth and slightly pursing your lips.
Next, you can add arm movement. Either raid the hands up along your midline, or out to the side like flapping your wings. The inhale should follow the movement of the arms such that your lungs are full when the arms are above your head. And you lungs empty when the hands are at the starting position at your waist. Slower is better and more difficult.
Step 3: Adjust Your Wardrobe
This may not apply to everyone, however if your clothing is making it tough for you to breath to your fullest. CHANGE IT! Maybe a very tight collar or belt/pants is the culprit. And if you wear this 12 hours per day you might be so much better being able to breathe more freely.