Not very many people think of their breathing technique when it comes to health and wellness. This is a mistake.
Learning how to breathe properly can make a huge difference in your life!
To begin, perform a quick test:
Pause for a moment to take a couple of deep breaths like so…Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Now, take a couple more but this time, put one of your hands on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Pay attention to how your chest and abdomen move while you breathe.
Try again…Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
What’s the verdict? Does your chest rise and fall while your abdomen stays relatively still? Or does your abdomen rise and fall while your chest stays relatively motionless?
If the answer is the latter — that your abdomen rises and falls while your chest stays relatively motionless — then you are in good breathing form! This is called diaphragmatic breathing and its benefits are great. If not, then definitely read on!
Breathing is obviously an involuntary function of your body, but your breathing pattern is under your control. Most people are chest breathers (chest rises and falls) versus diaphragmatic breathers. HOWEVER, we are born diaphragmatic breathers and usually transition to chest breathing due to various factors along the course of our life. Some reasons are the desire to keep our bellies sucked in to look flat and slim, bad posture, anxiety and stress.
So, what makes diaphragmatic breathing better than chest breathing, you ask? Here are the top three benefits in my opinion:
1. Increased lung capacity:
Your diaphragm is located between your abdominal cavity and your lungs at the lower part of your ribcage. When you breathe diaphragmatically, your diaphragm moves downward on each inhale and makes more room in the lower lobes of your lungs to accept more oxygen per inhalation. This increases your lung capacity immediately.
2. Decreased levels of tension/stress:
Research shows that people with higher levels of tension and stress breathe shallowly and with their chests. When you breathe in this manner, you are forced to increase your respiratory rate to accommodate your body’s need for oxygen. Breathing diaphragmatically will naturally slow down your respiratory rate and can aid in decreasing stress.
3. Increased core strength:
Your diaphragm is, in fact, one of your core muscles. Most people think their “core” is that 6-pack everyone strives for. However, that is not the case! Your inner core muscles include the diaphragm and this muscle helps to stabilize your spine. If you do NOT breathe using your diaphragm, then your true core system is not fully functioning!
It takes time and practice to change your breathing pattern. At first you will have to designate specific time(s) during the day to practice. Then you will get to the point where you will breathe correctly for a duration without thinking about it, but you will have to “check in” with yourself throughout the day to make sure your pattern is correct. Eventually, it will be as natural for as it was when you were a toddler!
To practice, do the following:
1. Lie down on your back.
2. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
3. As you inhale, let your abdomen raise and keep your chest relatively unmoving.
4. As you exhale, drawn your abdomen downward toward your spine.
You can also do this exercise sitting but sometimes it is better for people to start in a lying down position.
Try it out! Practice! You will learn and you WILL feel the difference!
Wendy Sallin, Certified Personal Trainer, Premier Fitness Camp
Wendy is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASN Licensed Sports Nutritionist and RRCA Certified Running Coach. She has worked in the fitness industry since 2003. She has advanced education in various specialties such as functional training, corrective exercise, flexibility and cardiovascular performance testing. She works with clients of all fitness and wellness levels, from individuals recovering from strokes and heart attacks to competitive athletes seeking higher levels of sports performance. Wendy has found her home as a Fitness Trainer with Premier Fitness Camp and is inspired daily by the determination and tenacity of Premier’s clients!