Diaphragmatic breathing, how it works and why you need to start practicing it

Entering fresh air into the lungs through the diaphragm is the ideal breathing technique to incorporate all the oxygen we need and therefore to feel better. However, many people take advantage of chest and unnatural breathing. If you suffer from insomnia or in general have sleep problems, learning to use this muscle will help you to partially solve the problem.Watch in the video below 4 other natural remedies to rest well.

What is the diaphragm and how it works

The diaphragm, also called thoracic diaphragm, is a muscle-tendon lamina located in the center of the trunk, more precisely between the thoracic and abdominal cavities (under the heart and lungs). It is characterized by a flattened and domed shape, vaguely reminiscent of a triangle.

What is the role of the diaphragm in breathing?
In reality it is the main engine of this very important mechanism, actively participating during the inhalation phase and the exhalation phase, unlike the lungs. In fact, when he contracts and relaxes, he makes sure that breathing occurs correctly.

When we inhale it contracts and lowers making it possible for the lungs to receive full oxygen and making the belly swell; instead when we exhale the muscle relaxes and rises and causes the lungs to empty (see image below). the inhalation creates a sort of vacuum effect and when the diaphragm rests it forces the expulsion of carbon dioxide from the organism.

Not only that, this important mechanism is used in other activities by our body, for example during urination, vomiting, tissue oxygenation, childbirth and defecation.

The diaphragm is truly essential for our life processes! If you learn how to fill your lungs with air with diaphragm support, you will bring significant benefits to your lifestyle. Let's find out more about how diaphragmatic breathing works and its benefits.

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Why abdominal breathing is preferred

The first thing to do to check if you are breathing with the correct muscle is to place a hand on your stomach and take a breath. If you don't feel your belly bulging, you are probably breathing shallowly. It's time to train your diaphragm using a different and more natural type of breathing, the diaphragmatic one. We explain why.

Abdominal breathing is taught in different contexts such as meditation and yoga classes, because it has been proven to be effective in counteracting stress, lowering blood pressure and other fundamental body processes. This technique of introducing air would actually be the most spontaneous, but our habits of life have led us over time to develop a thoracic breathing, less deep than the ventral one and with a reduced oxygen supply, which limits the proper functioning of all other organs of the body.

In particular, stress and states of anxiety are some of the main actors involved in this altered breathing: they lead us to unconsciously hold our breath and block the diaphragm in the lower part of the chest. As we have seen before, this means that the air it does not free itself as it should.

Train the diaphragm to be correctly involved in the breathing process: not only will you feel better physically in the long term, but you will also touch your mental well-being, going to regulate your physiological balance and making sleep, concentration and memory better . Not bad if you think you just have to change the way you oxygenate your body with breaths.

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All the benefits of abdominal breathing

Practice it in every aspect of your life and the benefits will be countless. First of all, it eliminates in a short time all the harmful effects that a long application of chest breathing causes, and in general it has an important positive impact both on the body and on the mind.

Specifically, the most immediate benefits you can get from diaphragmatic breathing are:

  • a greater sense of relaxation. It reduces the harmful effects of cortisol, known just as the stress hormone;
  • release of tension on the body and shoulders;
  • decrease in muscle contractures and neck pain;
  • a more correct posture;
  • lowering of blood pressure;
  • slowing of the heartbeat and therefore becomes a precious ally to fight tachycardia;
  • increase in muscle elasticity;
  • better endurance during intense exercise;
  • a slower breathing speed, and therefore brings a considerable saving of energy for the whole organism;
  • clearer voice when we speak.

On an emotional level, conscious and deep breathing has an effect on the management of emotions. That's right, because states of mind and physical processes are closely connected.
The way we breathe tells us a lot about our situation, physical and emotional, in moments of physical activity, but also in "facing the daily challenges.

You can choose to breathe well ... and live better!

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Consequences of incorrect breathing for a long time

The positives of abdominal breathing are so many, but do you know what risks you run by continuing to enter the lungs incorrectly?
First of all, you could compromise the functioning of some organs: this happens when other parts are excessively loaded during the inhalation and exhalation phases and if the diaphragm continues to be limited in its movements.
We hear you the main problems of thoracic breathing.

In general you may experience:

  • accumulation of widespread pain, especially in the area of ​​the neck, shoulders and upper back;
  • chronic breathing problems, such as asthma. It happens very often that those with a rigid diaphragm also suffer from this disorder;
  • problems with the digestive system, for example poor digestion, constipation and gastritis;
  • circulatory difficulties;
  • lumbar pain, as the diaphragm approaches the lumbar vertebrae;
  • a more incorrect posture;
  • tension of the facial muscles.

Fortunately, these problems can be ironed out by unlocking the diaphragm with some exercises, which can also be performed at home.
You will find that this workout will benefit you at 360 degrees: you will find the desire to do and the energy necessary to get to the end of the day as less stressed as possible.

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How to unlock the diaphragm

Since the diaphragm is a muscle, it needs to be trained to get stronger and to function at its best. Carve out 10 minutes each day to improve your well-being, starting with simple but effective exercises, which will fight daily anxieties and will radically change the way you breathe. Through these breathing techniques the diaphragm will stretch and melt. Seeing is believing!

If you are new to diaphragmatic breathing we suggest you start doing these exercises while lying down and in the supine position. This will make it easier for you to understand the mechanisms involving the diaphragm.

Once you have become familiar, you can also perform them sitting or even standing. There is no better time of day to approach these diaphragm stretches; the important thing is consistency. At first you will need to focus on your breathing and therefore it will be more comfortable to perform these sessions in the comfort of your home, but if you embrace abdominal breathing and leave the "belly" breathing, you will do it practically without realizing it.
Don't be discouraged if you don't succeed right away - shaking off years of bad habits is harder than you think. It may even feel unnatural to breathe with your diaphragm, but after a few days you will learn to be more aware of the muscles involved.

Below you will find some practical advice for your moments of meditation.

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First exercise to train diaphragmatic breathing

For the first few sessions lie down with your legs folded in a comfortable space and on a comfortable surface (a yoga mat is fine), allowing you to clear your mind. The belly is facing up and the feet are about 20cm apart. Now start focusing only on your breath.

Lie back and relax, and focus your thoughts on your belly.

To start feeling the diaphragm you have to put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest: while breathing you will have to raise your hand resting on your stomach while the one on your chest must remain still. This is your first goal!

How do you do it? Breathing in through the nose and slowly breathing out through the mouth. When you inhale, watch your belly fill with air: this is one of the most important movements in diaphragmatic breathing! The hand on your chest is a small brake to prevent it from rising.
When you exhale, open your mouth and let the air out passively, try not to contract the muscles nor to arch your back. The hand remains firm on the chest.

If you see that the hand on your chest is raised it means that you are not using the diaphragm; do not worry, this is probably the obstacle that we all have to overcome. Keep focusing your attention on your belly and imagine inflating a balloon inside your belly with the air inside.
As the days and training sessions go by, you will notice that your chest will remain stationary and the air you breathe in will go directly into your belly. Well done!

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Diaphragm strengthening exercise

With this exercise you can intensify your breathing training.

Also after lying on a mat in the supine position, place your hands around the base of the rib cage, with the thumbs resting on the sides of the chest, facing the floor and the other fingers extended along the chest. If your fingers touch, that's okay, it means you have a small rib cage. Keep your eyes open at first, you can better visualize the movement of the diaphragm as it expands

Then press your thumbs against the ribs to get a slight resistance to their movement.
At this point, expand your ribs as much as you can, they must press against the thumbs. Focus on your breath.
With each inhalation, slightly move your hands away from each other and bring them closer as you exhale. Continue like this for 10 exhalations.
Finally, extend your arms to the ground at your sides and breathe another ten times.

If you have time, maximize the effect by taking two cycles.

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