Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to improve your quality of life. The average adult uses only one third of their lung capacity. Chronic tension and poor posture also contribute to poor breathing and thus poor health.
Many of us come to yoga as what is sometimes termed “chest breathers.” We breathe from the chest – our breathing is irregular and air intake is slow. Diaphragmatic breathing is much healthier. It allows you to take in more air and to breathe it in more deeply.
In yoga, diaphragmatic breathing (or abdominal breathing) is typically one of the first pranayama (breath control) techniques we learn and practicing it is truly a great gift to yourself.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing
There are countless ways that abdominal breathing can benefit our overall health. I’ve mentioned a few of the most important below:
1. Triggers the Relaxation Response
Diaphragmatic breathing soothes the nervous system and is a great tool for releasing tension from the body. It also reduces stress hormones in the body.
2. Boosts Energy and Increases Vitality
Breathing deeply increases your energy levels as it allows fresh oxygen and nutrients to be more easily distributed to all the cells in your body. This helps the brain and all of the organs to function optimally.
3. Strengthens the Immune System
Abdominal breathing helps prevent infection of the lungs and other tissues.
4. Improves the Circulatory System
Diaphragmatic breathing benefits the circulatory system by increasing blood circulation and helping with blood-return to the heart.
5. Helps digestion by massaging the internal organs as the diaphragm moves up and down.
6. Helps us to center and ground ourselves.
How Does It Work?
The diaphragm is a large muscle found between the chest and the abdomen. When we breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and moves down causing the abdomen to expand. A negative pressure is created and air is forced into the lungs.
For a detailed explanation, have a look at the excellent video below by 3d-yoga.com Very cool!
Abdominal breathing can be practiced lying down on your back, on your belly or any future positions. As you inhale, you allow the belly to expand. As you exhale, allow the entire body to soften, releasing the breath slowly and gently.