“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
-Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation
Breathing is something we do all day, every day.
Most of us don’t think about it too often, because we don’t really have to. Breathing is essential to being alive, so our body is designed to automatically take care of this process.
But, what if the length of our lives was measured by breath - instead of time?
Would you think about your breath then?
When breathing is left to our automatic nervous system, it tends to be shallow & doesn’t utilize our abdominal structures. This subconscious way of breathing will keep us alive, but it isn’t very efficient in producing energy or handling the stresses of modern living.
Breathing with the upper cavity of the chest or shoulders restricts the capacity of the lungs & barely moves the diaphragm muscle.
This shallow breathing contributes to anxiety, high blood pressure, poor circulation & a disconnection between mind & body. Which all can lead to serious injury & illness.
Luckily, breathing can also be consciously controlled.
I know this term looks scary, but it’s very simple.
Diaphragmatic breathing refers to breathing in a way that utilizes the diaphragm muscle.
That rigidity creates a cascade of issues throughout our body & nervous system.
Taking time to consciously activate the diaphragm through diaphragmatic breathing (aka: abdominal breathing or belly breathing) encourages proper oxygen exchange within the body & sends signals to the nervous system that allow you to be more in control & more at ease in your life.
By exercising control over your breath, you activate physical & mental stability.
Together, this stability creates a strong foundation that breeds focus, clarity & endurance in the body-mind.
Where is the diaphragm located?
The diaphragm sits below the lungs & heart, and above the internal organs in the abdomen.
It attaches around the bottom of the rib cage - from the front, sides & to the back.
Because of its location in relation to the lungs & the abdominal muscles - how the abdominals & ribs move as you breathe is extremely important.
Why is it important to move the diaphragm when I breathe?
As a muscle, the diaphragm is designed to stretch & contract.
Diaphragmatic breathing expands & contracts the diaphragm, which pulls on surrounding structures creating pressure within the abdomen.
This pressure is known as intra-abdominal pressure, & it helps move fluids within the abdominal cavity. This supports the digestive system’s ability to process food, absorb nutrients & eliminate waste.
As the respiratory diaphragm moves, the pelvic floor diaphragm also moves. A healthy relationship between the movement of the respiratory diaphragm & the pelvic diaphragm helps with issues like incontinence, fatigue, self-doubt & apathy.
There are also many nerves that flow through the diaphragm - especially the vagus nerve. When the diaphragm is constantly contracting & expanding with the breath, there is space for those nerves to flow information back & forth, from the brain to the rest of the body. This increase in the body’s communication is immensely helpful for lowering blood pressure & reducing stress, anxiety & pain.
The way our brain communicates with our body is influenced by the control & movement of the diaphragm.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased circulation
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce risk of cardiac disease
- Increased lung efficiency
- Reduce muscle tension
- Improve mental clarity & focus
How to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
In order to get the diaphragm to move, you have to allow your abdomen to move. In order to get the abdomen to move, you have to relax the outer edges of the shoulders & hips.
Start here 👇🏻
Find a comfortable position. Relax your shoulders & soften your face.
As you inhale, allow your belly to expand like a balloon.
At the top of the inhale - pause.
Then exhale & allow your belly to draw in & contract.
Repeat this a few times.
As the abdomen expands like a balloon, it creates space for the diaphragm to move down from its dome-like shape & for the lungs to fill with air.
As the ab muscles contract, they help to dispel air out of the lungs & the diaphragm relaxes back up to its dome-like shape.
The first step is to get the abdomen to move. Once the abdomen is moving, it will help the rib cage expand & contract, & allow the diaphragm to move.
It’s all connected!
Breath is the key to activating the abdominal muscles in our core & regulating our nervous system. And it is an important tool for boosting a sense of confidence & stability in the body.
I hope this blog helped you gain a better understanding of why moving your abdomen & diaphragm as you breathe is so important for your health & well-being.
Hi, I’m Jessi!
For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping people of all ages & fitness levels reframe their relationship with movement. As a Holistic Fitness Trainer, I not only train people’s bodies, I also help them adopt mindsets & habits that fuel consistent mental well being & physical vitality.
My goal is to provide accessible health & fitness tools in a welcoming space. There is no one-size-fits-all approach - but, there are building blocks that we all can use to create stability & awareness that will help us function with strength & confidence.
As a college athlete & an active go-getter, I’ve had to navigate my way through several major injuries, crippling anxiety & back pain. Part of my journey is to share the techniques that have helped me rehab my body & minimize the occurrence of fatigue or burn-out.
Movement is an essential therapy to help the human psyche manage the stresses of life. I am here to help you find what works for your body & your lifestyle, so you can reduce pain & feel motivated to move more consistently.
My coaching style focuses on strong foundations of body awareness & stabilization. I combine techniques from Yoga, Pilates, Strength Training, Massage Therapy & Mindfulness to craft well thought out, customized training plans to support your human experience. To read more about me, click here.
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