Contents

Diaphragmatic Breathing

What is the Diaphragm?

The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs. But chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may prevent the diaphragm from working effectively.

When you have COPD, air often becomes trapped in the lungs, pushing down on the diaphragm. The neck and chest muscles must then assume an increased share of the work of breathing. This can leave the diaphragm weakened and flattened, causing it to work less efficiently.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is intended to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing to:

  • Strengthen the diaphragm
  • Decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate
  • Decrease oxygen demand
  • Use less effort and energy to breathe

Diaphragmatic breathing technique

Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips (see “Pursed Lip Breathing Technique”). The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown above. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair, as shown below.

To perform this exercise while sitting in a chair:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  4. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Note: You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you’ll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.

How often should I practice this exercise?

At first, practice this exercise 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen.

Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Get useful, helpful and relevant health + wellness information enews

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What is paradoxical breathing?

Share on PinterestAn injury to the chest may cause paradoxical breathing.

Except in infants and children younger than two and a half, paradoxical breathing points to a problem with the lungs or diaphragm. The most common causes of paradoxical breathing include:

Injury to the chest

Trauma to the chest, such as from a fall, a sports injury, or a car accident, can damage the lungs and rib cage. This trauma may cause the lungs to expand while exhaling, but not when inhaling.

When paradoxical breathing is caused by trauma, it usually begins immediately following the incident and requires emergency treatment.

Neurological problems

Some neurological disorders can paralyze the diaphragm. When the diaphragm cannot move, the lungs do not expand properly when inhaling.

Neurological disorders can also disrupt signals to and from the diaphragm and lungs, causing breathing malfunctions.

Electrolyte imbalances

Severe malnutrition, vomiting, diarrhea, and some metabolic disorders can cause imbalances in the body’s electrolytes. This may cause respiratory problems, including paradoxical breathing as the body tries to compensate for the metabolic disturbance.

Hormonal shifts

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They convey essential information to virtually every part of the body, including the respiratory system. Hormonal imbalances may change breathing patterns and cause paradoxical breathing.

Muscle dysfunction

If the diaphragm cannot function correctly, it may not be able to move to allow the lungs to expand fully. This can cause difficulty breathing and may cause the lungs to only partially expand when a person takes a breath. Damage to the diaphragm due to trauma and neurological problems, such as multiple sclerosis, may also be the cause of a diaphragm malfunction.

Upper airway blockage

When something blocks the upper airway, including the nose, throat, and upper part of the windpipe, paradoxical breathing may occur. This can happen during an allergic reaction if the throat swells, if a person has a severe respiratory infection, or if someone is choking.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep and respiratory disorder that causes a person to frequently stop breathing or take very shallow breaths during sleep. Both children and adults experiencing sleep apnea may show signs of paradoxical breathing.

Learning diaphragmatic breathing

The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, plays an important role in breathing — though you may not be aware of it. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward. This creates more space in your chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the opposite happens — your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity.

All of us are born with the knowledge of how to fully engage the diaphragm to take deep, refreshing breaths. As we get older, however, we get out of the habit. Everything from the stresses of everyday life to the practice of “sucking in” the stomach for a trimmer waistline encourages us to gradually shift to shallower, less satisfying “chest breathing.”

Relearning how to breathe from the diaphragm is beneficial for everyone. Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “abdominal breathing” or “belly breathing”) encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.

But it’s especially important for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In COPD, air can become trapped in the lungs, which keeps the diaphragm pressed down. This causes it to weaken and work less efficiently. Diaphragmatic breathing can help people with COPD strengthen the diaphragm, which in turn helps them use less effort and energy to breathe.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that’s more comfortable.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.

For more ways to manage and treat COPD, buy Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Image: cacaroot

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Quick: When was the last time you cleaned your belly button, a.k.a. your navel, a.k.a., that spot where you were once connected to your mother through an umbilical cord? I’m gonna guess not since your parents took a Q-tip to it.

I know, it’s a body part that can easily go ignored, but tbh, if you don’t give it a little TLC once in a while, you might notice some pretty funky stuff lurking inside it. Here, dermatologists answer what belly button lint actually is, how to keep it in check, and why you should care.

Okay, what exactly is belly button lint, and why do I get it?

In short, belly button lint is a combo of dead skin cells that naturally shed daily, debris, sweat, oil secretions, small clothing fibers, and naturally-found bacteria around your navel skin, explains Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and founder of Entiere Dermatology

While it definitely sounds gross, it’s pretty harmless, says Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin. And unfortunately, some people are just more prone to it than others—mainly those with longer, thicker stomach hair (the friction of the hair can pull more clothing fibers in toward the belly button) or people who wear specific fabric types, like cotton or wool, that tend to accumulate more lint, she adds.

It can, however, get out of control. If you’ve ever stuck your finger in your belly button and smelled it (come on, you know you have at least once), it might stink a little—that’s due to bacteria and yeast that tends to grow when it combines with dead skin cells, hair, and oil.

And in a worst-case scenario, if things get too out-of-hand, your belly button could start to leak a brownish, yellow, or white discharge, which signals a bacterial or yeast infection, says Dr. Noelani González, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West in New York City. (Hint: That also means you should schedule an appointment to see your derm ASAP.)

So it sounds like I need to clean my belly button. How do I do it?

The best strategy is to wash the area with a gentle soap and water (read: no scratching or harsh alcohol-based ingredients), then dry it with a towel once you’re out. A clean belly button is important, but a dry one will help keep that moist environment that bacteria loves to grow in at bay.

If, for some reason, you do go at your belly button with something sharp, like your nails, apply a little Vaseline jelly to the area to help your wounds heal, says Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin. Also: While those with outie belly buttons (as opposed to innies) don’t typically get belly button lint, it’s still important for everyone to clean their belly button pretty regularly (a quick rinse in the shower is good enough).

Cassie Shortsleeve Freelance Writer Cassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel.

5 Massive Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

I first consciously discovered Diaphragmatic breathing years ago before I started meditating. I was sitting in a sauna after a workout. I felt the warm air filling my lungs as I took a deep breath in and felt incredibly calm and relaxed as I breathed out. I then started to really focus in on my breathing (my first un-official meditation sitting).

Again I took a very deep breath in through my nose filling my stomach and chest then would exhale slowly, only to repeat over and over until the the heat was to much and I walked out of the sauna feeling absolutely amazing!

That then lead me to look into the effects of what I learned to be known as Diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing. It was such an eye opening experience that something so simple can have such great benefits.

I want to share what I have learned to be the 5 massive benefits of diaphragmatic breathing to help people better understand this powerful tool that can help bring relaxation, clarity, and calmness. Yet as essential as it is for our balance and wellbeing, the benefits of breathing correctly are generally not understood.

How most of us breathe..

It would be fair to say that the majority of people do not breathe as well as they can. How can that be? we are still alive functioning without any apparent difficulty… Yes that’s true, but that does not mean that we can’t do it better, for a better quality of life.

If you were to look at your posture right now, yes look at how you are sitting, is your back straight with your shoulders back?

Slouching is very common with most people. Generally people slouch sliding their bottom forward sitting on a chair or sofa then leaning back or sitting forward curving their spine with rounded shoulders while sitting at a computer.

If this is how you sit, then you are not breathing as efficiently as you could and by having bad posture it is preventing you from deep breathing to fill all of your lungs.

When breathing correctly, you will notice the top of your chest rise and the lower stomach area will also rise. See for yourself.. sit back, straighten your back and neck, shoulders back, now breathe, can you physically feel the difference as you breathe more deeply into your lungs.. that’s correct breathing.

Slouching restricts this natural flow of air into your lungs because there is some restriction. Proper breathing begins in the nose and moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air.

It is the most efficient way to breathe as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in the air flowing effortlessly into your lungs.

Breathing correctly..

As I mentioned, to breath correctly requires you to consciously adjust your posture then breathing deeper into your lungs, not just the top part of your lungs where most of us breathe. With conscious focus, you can easily re-train your existing posture to one where deeper breathing will become the new norm.

Applying this no matter where you are, no matter how stressed or anxious you may be, deep breathing will bring you calmness and presence of mind to relax it also gives you the ability to assess rather than panic.

5 Amazing Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing…

When you think about it, what does your breath do?…it carries oxygen into your body and carbon monoxide out..

And what does oxygen do?…it’s the life force behind all living cells.

When breathing correctly, you are completely filling your lungs sending more oxygen into the body via your blood. Blood carrying higher concentrations of oxygen has numerous benefits, the 5 biggest are…

1. Effectively reduces fatigue or infections.

2. Helps by increasing cellular metabolism capturing and removing toxins in the body.

3. Greater clarity, less stress, calmness and alertness.

4. Increased oxygen levels in your cells help them to also function with increased vitality effectively slowing down cellular degeneration and the aging process.

5. By breathing correctly, you also can slow down your heart rate and lower or stabilize your blood pressure.

You can do a test right now, place your fingers on your wrist to feel your pulse after a few moments take two or three deep stomach breathes. What do you notice? …a slowing down of your pulse rate.

The heart receives the increased oxygen so it pumps slower… how cool is that?

Shallow breathing…

You probably haven’t noticed when you are stressed, anxious or angry that your breath is adversely affected. In these times your breathing unless you consciously change it will be shallow rapid short breathes, breathing only into the top areas of your lungs.

I also want to share with you the disadvantages of shallow breathing to better under the importance of Diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Shallow breathing deprives all of the cells in your body of optimum levels of oxygen, so all are ‘hungry’ for what little oxygen is there. So the heart has to beat faster and you breathe more quickly to meet the demand.
  • With deprived levels of oxygen in your bloodstream, you will not be able to think logically, decisions can be rushed or illogical.
  • Shallow breathing also causes an imbalance in the oxygen and carbon monoxide levels when carbon monoxide is not expelled as readily as it should, so confusion and disorientation can result.
  • Rapid breathing also causes the release of cortisol the hormone that increases anxiety and imbalance and is commonly associated with symptoms of fatigue and uncertainty.
  • Shallow breathing may also cause an increase in mucus levels in the chest and in some cases if prolonged may cause pneumonia.
  • Obesity can also cause shallow breathing with increased fatty tissue around the muscles in the chest and stomach.

Not only can it cause a worsening of symptoms that heighten risk factors for various diseases, but shallow breathing can also negatively impact your posture.

When you breathe from your upper chest rather than your lower abdominal you can develop pain in your back, neck and shoulder muscles, which can cause neck tension, back issues, headaches and even migraines.

Shallow breathing can heighten panic attacks because of the increased stress levels for those who tend to suffer already from them, so any situation is aggravated more than necessary.

A great way to ease stress or anxiety apart from breathing correctly is to count slowly as you inhale one, two, three, four, five, then exhale doing the same but make the exhalation slower in time, this will slowly relax the body releasing endorphins for calmness, ease and relaxation.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, shallow breathing won’t help you feel any better, but deep breathing will. Repeated slow deep breaths will naturally bring your heart rate more in sync with your breath.

This leads your brain to release endorphins, the hormones that have a natural calming effect. In other words, the feel-good hormones are released and this relaxes you and importantly can ease the reactive state you may be in. Have you ever noticed someone telling another person to relax and breath slowly, well that is why.

Conclusion:

So as you can see what we have taken for granted can have such an influence on how we can minimize stress, anxiety or depression while restoring wellness and balance in a matter of minutes.

You can consciously use your breath to help maintain calmness and focus no matter where you are or what situations you face.

Being aware of Diaphragmatic breathing has undoubtedly changed my life and I hope this article brings greater awareness, wellness and balance to yours.

Saludos,

Lachie.

Co-founder at Lamajo Wellness.

Worth a read? Share the love…

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Lamajo LLC dba Lamajowellness.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com”>.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but in order for a workout to be any good these days, it has to be “intense.” Or “killer.”

But what if all this intensity isn’t necessarily the best thing for us? What if it’s actually getting in your way, robbing you of the results you’re so desperately looking for?

One of my clients—let’s call him Mike—is an entrepreneur. He runs multiple businesses. A couple of years ago, he went through a year that could only be described as “hell on earth.” His wife almost died from alcoholism. Her doctor said she was so anemic from not eating or drinking anything of substance that she was literally days away from death. At the same time, one of his business partners emptied their bank account to the tune of six figures, skipped town, and left Mike holding all of the business liabilities.

A lesser man would’ve crumbled. He didn’t. He kept his businesses open. He remained a father to his two young kids, and he visited his wife daily while seeking counseling for himself. To say that he was “stressed out” would be an understatement.

He also trained with me three days a week.

Did we have “killer” workouts? Heck no. His body was already stressed out to the max, so we did easy strength workouts. We did workouts that didn’t overly tax him, yet made him feel good physically and feel good emotionally. And lots of times we did the “Magic Exercise.”

What’s that? I’d make him lie down on the floor and breathe. That’s it.

I remember one session he came into the gym and he was really wound up. I turned off the lights and said, “Ok, Mike, lie right there on the floor with your feet up on this chair for as long as you need.”

He did that the whole hour. When he got off the floor, there was a sweat angel underneath him. His body was so stressed out that all he needed to do that day was breathe. It was what he desperately needed both physically and psychologically.

Diaphragmatic breathing—slow, deep breaths that fill your belly—isn’t sexy. It’s not killer or hardcore or badass, but it’s a necessity for health and performance. Think about it: Breathing is the very first thing you do when you’re born and it’s the last thing you do before you die. It must be important. Really important.

It balances out your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, allowing your body to function more optimally. It helps reduce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are more often than not elevated due to stress-filled work environments and a lack of sleep. It’s also been reported that diaphragmatic breathing:

• Helps lower blood pressure, and therefore the risk of heart disease
• Helps lower blood sugar, and therefore the risk of diabetes
• Releases serotonin, which not only makes you feel good, but can reduce cravings for processed carbohydrates and other junk food
• Eliminates free radicals from the body, improving cellular function and lifespan
• Increases the secretion of growth hormone and slows the aging process
• Improves mental focus and clarity by increasing blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of your brain
• Improves sleep quality
• Facilitates weight loss by balancing stress hormones with anabolic hormones

As you can see, there are some important benefits to regularly practicing diaphragmatic breathing. You can do it to replace a workout when you’re overly stressed like Mike did, or you can do it at the end of your workout.

When I owned my group kettlebell training facility, I would always finish my 5: 45 pm classes with 5 to 10 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. The members would tell me it was the best part of their night. They’d literally peel themselves off the floor and drag themselves out the door, leaving sweat angels behind.

Here’s how to do it: Pick a comfortable position to lie down, either on your stomach or on your back. Then close your eyes, think about your favorite vacation, and just breathe for the next 5 minutes or more. You’ll be surprised by not only how good you feel after you’ve done it, but by how well you’ll sleep that night and how recovered you’ll feel for your next workout.

Sure, diaphragmatic breathing may not be “killer,” but it might just be what you need to end a killer day.

Geoff Neupert has worked in the fitness industry for more than 20 years as a personal trainer, Division 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach, owner of training facilities, and an author. He’s the co-founder of Original Strength Training Systems, and a certified RKC and StrongFirst master kettlebell instructor.

The Health Benefits of Deep Breathing: 9 Ways it Supercharges Your Body and Mind

Breathing heals on many levels, and understanding how it performs this function is good for our mental and physical well-being. Our breath constantly converts our life-sustaining energy, taking in oxygen, invigorating red blood cells and expelling carbon dioxide, which is a metabolic waste product.

By breathing deeply, you allow the diaphragm to drop downward, the rib cage to expand and create more space for the lungs to inflate. By mastering the art of deep breathing, increased oxygen floods into the body, eventually helping the heart pace to slow down to create feelings of calmness and relaxation.

In a nutshell… breath detoxifies, releases toxins and strengthens the immune system

Around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste product of your body’s metabolism. The benefits of breathing deeply help the systems in the body to process this more efficiently.

1. Breath Increases Energy

Oxygen is the most essential natural resource required by our cells. We can go without food for up to 40 days and without water for 3 days, yet we can die after just a few minutes of not breathing. From a purely physical point of view, breath equals life.

2. Breath Improves the Respiratory System

One of the benefits of breathing deeply is that it helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. It opens up the chest, releasing tension from the intercostal muscles and around the scapula, erector spinae and trapezius muscles, allowing for a more relaxed posture.

3. Breath Calms the Nervous System

Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us into a relaxed state. It functions in the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the fight-or-flight response.

Free Enlightened Living Course: Take Your Happiness, Health, Prosperity & Consciousness to the Next Level

Discover powerful insights and techniques for creating radiant health, happiness, prosperity, peace and flow in your life and relationships.

4. Breath Strengthens the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system depends on gravity, muscle movement, and the benefits of breath to keep flowing so that the body can be cleansed. Deep breathing can play an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses and other threats to our health.

5. Breath Releases Muscle Tension

When we are stressed or experience uncomfortable feelings such as anger or pain, our breath becomes shallow and our muscle tissues contract. Deep breathing helps to release this.

6. Breath Improves the Cardiovascular System

Deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organs. In one study of heart attack patients, 100% of the patients were chest breathers whose breathing involved very little diaphragm or belly expansion. Another study found that patients who survived a heart attack and who adopted an exercise regime and breath training afterward experienced a 50% reduction in their risk factor of another heart attack over the following 5 years.

7. Breath Elevates the Digestive System

The benefits of deeper breathing include increased blood flow in the digestive tract, which encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion, alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. In addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn enhances optimum digestion.

8. Breath Affects Our Mental State

The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhance the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorize. The brain requires a great deal of oxygen to function and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity and feel grounded and productive. It also relieves stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns. The benefits of breathing properly can help us overcome addictive patterns of behavior and eating disorders, as well as igniting creativity and passion.

9. Breath Keeps Us Looking Youthful

It’s a universal truth that a happy face is more beautiful than a stressed or angry one. Even better news: breathing deeply slows the aging process by increasing secretion of anti-aging hormones! By reducing stress, it improves our mood, elevating the levels of serotonin and endorphins. The Telomere Effect by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel chronicles a 2013 study by Harvard Medical School’s psychiatry department, which discovered that people who meditate daily for four years have longer telomeres – the protective caps found on the end of chromosomes – than those who do not. Short telomeres have been linked to premature cellular aging.

Is There Anything the Breath Cannot Do?

In a word, no. Good breathing benefits us by helping us feel more confident and able to let go of old belief systems and negative thought patterns that no longer serve us. Releasing old stories and past dramas previously held on to on a subconscious level gives us new emotional depth. By expanding our awareness inside, breathing has a spiritual effect too, deepening yoga and meditation practice, creating inner peace, and leading us to higher states of consciousness. As if that isn’t enough, it can also reinvigorate sexual energy, deepen creative expression, improve sleep patterns and lower blood pressure.

Early Breathing Patterns

Most of us are not using our whole respiratory system to breathe. In fact, many of us use just 33%, a mere third of our total capacity. The next time you look at a newborn baby as they sleep, take note of the way their whole body is breathing and how their breathing is connected. Their back, tummy and chest move together with no blockages.

Toddlers usually breathe into their chests and their bellies. The breath moves consistently, like an ocean wave ebbing and flowing.

Each human being is unique, with a unique breathing pattern illustrating our story, where we are in the world, and how we perceive ourselves. Everyone’s breathing has a story that encompasses birth trauma, early childhood experiences, parental authority, school peers, and angst from our teenage years and early adulthood.

So what kind of breather are you?

Some of us are chest breathers while others are belly breathers. Then there are those who breathe more in the midsection. By opening and clearing the restricted breathing pattern, we can breathe more freely and easily.

Our breath represents how we flow in life. As we open and expand our breath, we have more energy and support for the body’s natural healing abilities. Our primary breathing muscles are the diaphragm, intercostals, scalenes and abdominals,

yet some of us are working really hard with the upper chest muscles, which creates tension here. There can be tightness in the diaphragm, which is attached to the deep-seated core muscle, the psoas (from the Greek word meaning ‘loin region’), and if this becomes tight, the hips also become constricted.

If we consider the way we breathe a metaphor for how we live our lives, it becomes obvious that as we restrict our flow of breath, we impede our natural flow. By focusing our intention on reaping the benefits of breathing, we begin to experience a relationship with our life force, our creative power. Once we revive this creative flow, we begin to nurture our bodies and minds, and the fear and pain we’ve internalized as a result of toxins or destructive thought patterns is transformed into love and joy.

A Guide to Breath Patterns

Shallow Breather

We become shallow breathers during periods of stress, when we are depressed, when we’ve not had much sleep, have had a bad day at work or the kids are acting up.

Chest Breather

If you breathe in the upper chest, you could be an over thinker who spends a lot of time in your head. If the heart area is closed, you may be protecting yourself in relationships or in life from being hurt. Often, this leads to holding back from true passion and relates to our connection to our heart and to the ability to do what we love.

Belly Breather

Those who are not breathing in their bellies often don’t feel grounded and can be a bit spaced out. This category of breathers often has strong-willed parents and tends to consist of people-pleasers who put others before themselves and experience low self-esteem. Belly breathing is our connection to personal will and power. Belly breathers tend to be more grounded and present. When experiencing the benefits of breathing in our belly, we are more connected to our body.

Exercise: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Lie on the floor in Shavasana or Corpse Pose, on your back with legs comfortably spread and the arms relaxed alongside the body. Feel and connect with the ground beneath your body, placing both hands on your lower abdominals, just below your rib cage.

Start by focusing on the inhale and exhale and notice the rise of the inhale and the fall of the exhale. Breathing in through your nose, your belly rises, and breathing out through your nose, the belly comes down. Allow there to be a pause between each breath.

Can you feel the breath in your belly? If not, try bending your knees, keeping your feet on the ground. This will help the breath to come down into the lower abdominals.

Can you feel the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe? Imagine as you inhale that there is a balloon inside or a ball of light expanding with each breath. This is a deep diaphragmatic breath.

If you are having difficulties feeling the breath in your belly, then you can try this: find a heavy book or a large bag of rice. Place this on your belly and put your hands on top.

Now as you inhale, gently push the weighty object into your hands and keep it there as you breathe in and out. You can ask a friend or family member to observe you while you are doing this.

This article is excerpted with permission from the book And Breathe: The Complete Guide to Conscious Breathing by Rebecca Dennis.

Hiatal Hernias

A hernia occurs when an organ protrudes through the wall of muscle that encircles it. A hiatal hernia means that the upper part of your stomach has protruded up into your chest, pushing through the little opening (or hiatus) in your diaphragm (which separates your abdomen from your chest).

Most of the time, hiatal hernias are so small they might not be felt at all. But if the hernia is a bit larger, it could force the opening in your diaphragm to become larger, too. At that point, the entire stomach and other organs are in danger of sliding up into your chest.

A hiatal hernia can also put undue pressure on your stomach, by squeezing or twisting it. This pressure can make your stomach retain acid, which can then flow up into your esophagus. You could develop chest pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and/or heartburn, and have trouble swallowing or even breathing. The acid may also cause ulcers within the stomach that can bleed and lead to acute or chronic anemia (low blood counts).

There are a few different kinds of hiatal hernias. Type I hernias, or sliding hiatal hernias, are the smallest and most common variety. These hernias cause your stomach to slide through a small opening in the diaphragm, and up into your chest. These often do not require an operation or treatment.

Much less common than these are Types II, III, and IV hernias, or paraesophageal hernias. These occur when a part of the stomach protrude into the chest adjacent to the esophagus. That part of the stomach is “trapped” above the diaphragm and can’t slide back down again. While these hernias are far less common, they can be more dangerous, since they cause more serious symptoms, and because the blood flow to your stomach can be compromised.

Risk Factors

Those over the age of 50, pregnant women, and the obese are at higher risk. A hiatal hernia can also be triggered by insistent pressure on the hiatus muscles. That pressure can be caused by coughing, vomiting, immoderate straining during bowel movements, lifting heavy objects, and/or excessive physical exertion.

Symptoms

Hiatal hernias, especially Type I hernias, do not usually cause symptoms. They may, however, be associated with the following: burping, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and/or regurgitation into the esophagus.

A paraesophageal hernia, or Type II, III, or IV hernia, may cause more severe symptoms. These can include:

  • Abdominal/chest pain
  • Abdominal bleeding (which can be indicated by blood in vomit, red or black stool, anemia, blood test indicating loss of blood)
  • Change in voice
  • Early satiety (or becoming full after only eating a small amount of food)
  • Occasional trouble swallowing (especially solid food)
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing after eating
  • Acid reflux
  • Regurgitation or a sensation of food “sticking”

Diagnosis

Along with a complete exam and detailed medical history, your surgeon may use one or more diagnostic tests to determine the best course of treatment.

Barium Swallow / Upper GI study requires that you swallow a small amount of contrast material, or liquid barium, which coats the lining of your esophagus so that X-ray images may be obtained. If you have experienced trouble swallowing, this procedure can help to locate any areas in your esophagus that may have narrowed. These areas are called strictures.

Chest X-rays: Electromagnetic energy produces images of internal tissues, bones and organs.

CT-Scans: These scans make up a series of images of the inside of your body, all taken from different angles, to reveal a high level of detail. To ensure that your veins and organs show up clearly in these scans, you may need to swallow a dye used for that purpose, or have it injected into your vein.

Upper Endoscopy (EGD): A procedure in which an endoscope is threaded through your mouth and then into your esophagus. This procedure allows your surgeon to actually see your upper digestive tract, which includes your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, or the first part of your small intestine. Your surgeon can then remove a tissue sample as well.

Treatments

Hiatal hernias don’t always require treatment beyond regular monitoring and medications. Under certain conditions, however, treatment will be necessary. Those conditions include: chronic anemia; chronic pain; complications by gastroesophageal reflux disease; complications by esophagitis; danger of strangulation; inability to vomit; recurrent pneumonia or other infections. The following treatments are available for those with hiatal hernias.

Minimally Invasive Hernia Repair

Minimally invasive surgery can effectively diminish the size of a hernia, as well as reduce the opening in the diaphragm, thereby preventing strangulation. During this procedure, surgeons will insert a tiny video camera into your abdomen. They’ll be able to view images projected onto a monitor, which will allow them to complete the procedure with greater control and finesse. The purpose of this surgery is to restore the stomach into your abdomen and close down the hole in the diaphragm. Minimally invasive surgery is associated with a quicker recovery and faster return to function than traditional open repair. Your doctor will determine if you are a candidate for this approach. (Video)

Fundoplication

Your surgeons may also perform a fundoplication, which will help to prevent acid from rising through the stomach.

Make an Appointment

To discuss a potential hernia treatment or surgery, contact the Surgery Call Center at (734) 936-5738.

Average Reading Time: 7 minutes and 5 seconds

The more I prescribe this technique and observe the results, the more convinced I am that everyone hoshould be doing it, as the causes of upward-moving vata are so ubiquitous in our culture today.

In Ayurveda, there is a condition called upward-moving vata or udvarta. There are many reasons for this condition, including stress and various forms of indigestion.What is interesting about this condition is that when vata goes up from the pelvis instead of down, it brings with it toxins from the liver and large intestines to the head and neck that were ear-marked for the toilet.

What’s worse is that the upward-moving vata can cause the stomach to adhere itself to the underside of the diaphragm, rendering the stomach unable to digest hard-to-digest foods like wheat, dairy and fatty foods.

The short list of digestive related issues from this upward-moving vata are:

  • Hay fever
  • Occasional headaches
  • Breakouts
  • Brain fog
  • Sore throats
  • Occasional heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Occasional constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Dairy intolerance
  • Achy neck and shoulders
  • Issues with the eyes, ears, nose and throat

To remedy this, there is a simple home therapy I call “stomach pulling,” in which the stomach is pulled down away from the diaphragm, freeing the stomach to digest optimally once again.

The Stomach – An Organ that Likes to Hang

The diaphragm is a big flat muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdomen and regulates breathing depth and patterns. The stomach is designed to hang underneath the diaphragm. But after years of:

  • upward-moving vata
  • stress
  • shallow breathing (through the mouth)
  • lack of exercise
  • lack of yoga, and
  • indigestion

… the diaphragm can begin to tighten and pull the stomach up towards itself.

If the stomach presses up on the diaphragm, over time it can cause a condition called a hiatal hernia, which is when the stomach actually pushes up on the diaphragm with steady pressure and part of the stomach herniates through the diaphragm.

Before the esophagus becomes the stomach, the esophagus travels through the diaphragm. Right where the esophagus passes through the diaphragm, there is a sphincter called the lower esophageal sphincter, which opens and closes to allow food through and keep the digestive acids from refluxing up into the esophagus, which can burn or irritate the esophageal lining. When the stomach adheres to the underside of the diaphragm, a small part of the stomach can eventually slip through the lower esophageal sphincter, which not only allows acid to reflux into the esophagus by altering the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, it also compromises the total function of the stomach.

But years before the stomach herniates through the diaphragm, in the case of upward-moving vata, the upward moving pressure of the stomach on the diaphragm can cause the diaphragm to tighten and the top side of the stomach to adhere to the lower side of the diaphragmatic wall. When this happens, instead of the stomach hanging freely to contract and digest food completely, half of it is stuck to the wall of the diaphragm, rendering the stomach unable to contract and digest efficiently (in a healthy digestion process, the stomach must contract to empty itself of food and liquid).

If half of the stomach is bound to the diaphragm and is unable to hang freely, the stomach simply will not produce the acid it needs to digest hard-to-digest foods and proteins like wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and nuts, among others.

The stomach acid production process sends a critical message to the pancreas, liver and gallbladder to secrete pancreatic enzymes and bile to get ready to digest. Bile also neutralizes the acids getting ready to be dumped into the small intestine by the stomach. If there is insufficient acid production in the stomach, there will not be sufficient bile and pancreatic enzyme secreted into the small intestine, which are required for digestion, assimilation and detox. This will further dial down digestive strength to the point where a host of digestive concerns will eventually ensue.

Trouble at the Junction Point

As illustrated above, with half of the stomach stuck to the diaphragmatic wall, the stomach cannot contract to move the foods through the stomach and out into the small intestine for the next phase of digestion. This can result in foods, fats and acids lingering in the stomach, causing irritation to the stomach wall and further signaling the stomach not to produce the needed amount of acid to digest the food efficiently.

How to Tell if Your Stomach is Stuck

To determine if you have this condition, take your thumb and press deeply under the left side of your ribcage and see if it is tender to touch. If you feel sore in this area you might have a stomach that is beginning to adhere to the diaphragmatic wall and it may responsible for many of the digestive or upward-moving vata health concerns that I have mentioned above. You may also want to poke under the right side of the ribcage as well and see if that area is sore. The liver hangs closely to the diaphragmatic surface on the right side; if it is sore, you may need to treat the right side as well.

Stomach Pulling Self-Corrective Technique

For years, I only gave this technique to folks with severe heartburn or a hiatal hernia. Now, I realize that due to stress, poor diet, eating on the run, and poor breathing habits, most people have a stomach that is functioning inefficiently due to this upward-moving vata.

I think everyone should know how to do this very simple at-home procedure to maintain the strength of your digestion. Many folks spend years avoiding certain foods and the list of “do not eat” foods just keeps growing. Stomach pulling gives you an incredible digestive boost. It take a little while to master this technique but I encourage everyone to learn it. If you do not digest wheat, dairy or fatty foods well, this is a must.

Stomach pulling will actually pull the stomach down and break up the adhesions between the diaphragm and the stomach. In the video included in Part II of my series on Acidic Digestion, I demonstrated a lying down version of Stomach pulling.

Today, I want to demonstrate (in the video above) and explain a simpler version of stomach pulling done while seated. Please watch the associated video to see how to practice this technique. Here is a simple description to help you understand the video instruction.

Step 1. Sit in a chair with a back rest, so your stomach muscles can relax. Take your left thumb and poke just under the ribcage on your left side. Use your right hand on top of your left to help put more pressure of the left thumb to push in more deeply. Soreness is an indication that you need this and that you are in the correct spot.

Step 2. With your thumb pressing into your stomach just under the ribcage, begin to lean forward. This will soften the tummy and allow you to push more deeply into the abdomen and stomach.

Step 3. While your right hand and your right thumb are pushing in just below the ribcage, begin to pull down towards your navel, in effect pulling your stomach downwards and separating it from the diaphragm.

Step 4. At the beginning of an inhale, as you continue pulling down on your stomach with your thumbs, begin to lean back in your chair. (A rocker works best. Be sure the stomach muscles do not contract while you lean back). This will extend your back, leveraging the ribcage upwards as you pull the stomach downwards in the direction of the navel.

Step 5. At the end of the inhale, lean forward again in your chair and exhale as you go all the way forward. Press your left thumb in as deeply in as possible, back it up with the right thumb and reinstate the motion of pulling down. Continue alternating leaning forward and back, coordinating the exhale with flexion and the inhale with extension.

Why the breath: As you inhale, the diaphragm is contracting, the ribcage is moving upwards and the stomach is naturally being pulled down away from the diaphragm, supporting your action.

Step 6. Continue this exercise as you work your way across the left (and right, if you felt soreness there) side of the ribcage.

Do this for 2 minutes twice a day until soreness is gone.

As I mentioned above, I really believe that everyone should be doing this technique, or at least try it periodically to make sure there isn’t soreness that you are unaware of above the stomach, liver and gallbladder. Doing so will break up all kinds of adhesions and free up space in the abdominal cavity, helping you feel lighter and less dense.

NOTE: While this is a valuable exercise for anyone who feels soreness in the stomach (on the left side) or liver/gallbladder area (on the right side), be cautious to never overdo it. Use pressure that is easily tolerated. Too much pressure can bruise the area and cause it to become even sorer over time.

Stop Stomach Adhesion Before It Happens:

A few simple and deceptively effective tools can help keep your stomach hanging the way it likes to:

  • Nasal Breathing Exercise: Deep nasal breathing during exercise is one of the best ways to expand the diaphragm and create space in the abdominal cavity.
  • Sun Salutations: This series of yoga asanas alternates extension and flexion, naturally stretching and massaging the region around the diaphragm and stomach junction.
  • Relaxing When You Eat: Eating in a relaxed and spacious way is one of the most effective ways over time to redirect vata back downwards.
  • Eating with the Seasons: Eating the appropriate foods for the season minimizes undue digestive strain, encourages healthy elimination and thereby keeps the vata moving down.
  • 28-Day Ayurveda Challenge: Learn how to live a health-supportive lifestyle that naturally incorporates diet and lifestyle tips to help avoid stomach adhesion.

Understanding the upper gut

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is the tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the back passage (anus).

The upper gut includes the gullet (oesophagus), stomach and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). Food passes down the oesophagus into the stomach. The stomach makes acid which is not essential but helps to digest food. After being mixed in the stomach, food passes into the duodenum to be digested.

The walls of the stomach contain muscle. At the junction of the stomach and the oesophagus there is a thickened area of muscle which is called a sphincter. The sphincter acts like a valve. When food comes down the oesophagus into the stomach, the sphincter relaxes. However, it closes at other times to stop food and acid in the stomach going back up (refluxing) into the oesophagus.

The diaphragm is a large flat muscle that separates the lungs from the tummy (abdomen). It helps us to breathe.

The oesophagus comes through a hole (hiatus) in the diaphragm just before it joins to the stomach. Normally, all of the stomach is below the diaphragm. The muscle fibres in the diaphragm around the lower oesophagus help the sphincter to keep the oesophagus closed to prevent reflux of acid and food.

What is a hernia and what is a hiatus hernia?

  • A hernia occurs when part of an organ pushes (protrudes) through a muscular wall that holds it in place. There are different types of hernia. For example, an inguinal hernia is the most common type when part of the lower bowel protrudes through the muscle in the groin.
  • A hiatus hernia occurs when part of one of the organs in the tummy protrudes through the diaphragm. Most commonly this is a part of the stomach; however, it may be other organs, such as the pancreas, spleen or the upper gut (small intestine).

Types of hiatus hernia

  • Sliding hiatus hernia is the most common type. In this situation, the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the gullet (oesophagus) and the top of the stomach protrudes through the hole (hiatus) in the diaphragm. This is the muscle separating the lungs from the tummy (abdomen). The hernia may slide up and down, in and out of the lower chest. It is often quite small. This type of hiatus hernia tends to be associated with symptoms of acid reflux (see below.)
  • Para-oesophageal hiatus hernia (also called a rolling hiatus hernia) is less common. In this situation, a part of the stomach pushes (protrudes) up through the hole in the diaphragm next to the oesophagus. Other organs from the tummy can also protrude through the hole in some cases. This could be the pancreas, the spleen or the upper gut (small intestine). This is not the normal type of hiatus hernia and it is much less common than a sliding hiatus hernia. It is more risky, as there is more chance the organ protruding can get stuck, causing a blockage (obstruction).

You may also see hiatus hernias referred to as types 1-4 depending on where the stomach and oesophagus are in relation to the diaphragm.

What causes hiatus hernia and how common is it?

The exact number of people with a hiatus hernia is not known, as many people with a hiatus hernia do not have symptoms. However, they are thought to be common. Some studies suggest that up to half of people having tests for indigestion (dyspepsia) are discovered to have a hiatus hernia.

The cause of hiatus hernia is not clear. It is thought that most develop in people over the age of 50 years. It may be that the diaphragm muscle weakens with age. This allows part of the stomach to protrude through the hole in the diaphragm. Factors which increase the pressure in the tummy (abdomen), such as regular coughing, repeated lifting of heavy objects, or obesity, may increase the risk of developing a hiatus hernia. It may be more likely if one of your close relatives has a hiatus hernia.

Operations around the stomach and gullet can make you more likely to get the para-oesophageal type of hiatus hernia. You are also more likely to get this type if your spine or rib cage is more curved than usual. For example, people with scoliosis or kyphosis.

There is a rare type of hiatus hernia which occurs in newborn babies, due to a congenital defect of the stomach or diaphragm. ‘Congenital’ means that the condition is present from birth. This rare type is not dealt with further in this leaflet.

What are the symptoms of hiatus hernia?

Often there are none

Many people with a hiatus hernia have no symptoms.

Acid reflux symptoms

The hernia itself does not cause symptoms. However, if you have a hiatus hernia, the factors that normally prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the gullet (oesophagus) may not work so well. The sphincter muscle may not work properly. The normal pressure of the diaphragm muscle on the oesophagus is lost. Therefore, you are more prone for acid in the stomach to go back upwards (reflux) into your oesophagus. The refluxed acid can cause inflammation of the lower part of the oesophagus. This can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heartburn: this is the main symptom. This is a burning feeling which rises from the upper tummy (abdomen) or lower chest up towards the neck. (It is confusing as it has nothing to do with the heart!)
  • Pain in the upper abdomen and chest.
  • Feeling sick.
  • An acid taste in the mouth.
  • Bloating.
  • Belching.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • A burning pain when you swallow hot drinks.

These symptoms tend to come and go and tend to be worse after a meal.

Some uncommon symptoms may occur. If any of these symptoms occur, it can make the diagnosis difficult, as these symptoms can mimic other conditions. For example:

  • A persistent cough, particularly at night, sometimes occurs. This is due to the refluxed acid irritating the windpipe (trachea). Asthma-like symptoms of cough and wheeze can sometimes be due to acid reflux.
  • Other mouth and throat symptoms sometimes occur such as gum problems, bad breath, sore throat, hoarseness and a feeling of a lump in the throat.
  • Severe chest pain develops in some cases (and may be mistaken for a heart attack).
  • Rarely, in people with a para-oesophageal hernia, the symptoms can be those of a part of the bowel being blocked (obstructed). In this case there would be severe tummy pain or chest pain, with retching or being sick (vomiting).

Note: many people with acid reflux do not have a hiatus hernia. Also, many people with a hiatus hernia do not have symptoms of acid reflux. If you have a hiatus hernia it does not necessarily mean that the sphincter between the oesophagus and stomach does not work so well. It is just that having a hiatus hernia makes you more prone to having a poorly functioning sphincter and more prone to developing acid reflux symptoms.

However, people with a hiatus hernia who do get reflux, on average, tend to get more severe symptoms and problems associated with acid reflux. This may be because with a hiatus hernia any acid that gets into the oesophagus is more likely to remain in contact with the lining of the oesophagus for longer compared with people without a hiatus hernia. See separate leaflet called Acid Reflux and Oesophagitis for more details.

How is a hiatus hernia diagnosed?

A hiatus hernia may be diagnosed if you have tests for symptoms of reflux. A special X-ray test called a barium swallow is sometimes used to confirm the presence of a hiatus hernia. Endoscopy is increasingly being used for diagnosis. An endoscope is a thin, flexible telescope which is passed down the gullet (oesophagus) into the stomach. This allows a doctor or nurse to look inside. A hiatus hernia may be seen. Occasionally other tests are needed.

What is the treatment of hiatus hernia?

No treatment in some cases

If you have no symptoms, in most cases you do not need any treatment. The hiatus hernia usually causes no harm. Occasionally, if you have a hernia which is at risk of complications, you may be offered surgery, even if you do not have any symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

  • If you have reflux symptoms, you should aim to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid anything that causes pressure on your stomach, such as tight clothing and corsets.
  • If you are a smoker you should aim to stop. If you drink a lot of alcohol, it also helps to cut down on alcohol.
  • Raising the head end of the bed may help with symptoms at night.
  • Avoiding eating your dinner too close to bedtime may also help with symptoms at night. Aim to have your dinner at least three hours before you go to bed ideally.
  • Smaller meals may be helpful, as may avoiding foods which you find make the reflux worse.

Medicines

If changing your lifestyle does not help, you may need medication. Medicines which reduce the action or production of stomach acid may help. The most effective medicines are proton pump inhibitors. Proton pump inhibitors often used are omeprazole or lansoprazole. If these do not suit you, other pills such as ranitidine or antacids may be used. You may need to take these for many years. Some people find they can take them as needed rather than every single day.

An operation

Rarely, a hiatus hernia causes severe symptoms of reflux which are not helped so well with medication. Therefore, an operation is occasionally advised. It may also be advisable if you cannot tolerate the medication for some reason. During this operation the stomach is put back into the correct position and the weakened diaphragm muscle around the lower gullet (oesophagus) is tightened. The operation is usually done these days using a laparoscope (a telescope inserted into the stomach). The operation quite often needs repeating in due course.

What are the possible complications of a hiatus hernia?

Possible complications may occur if you have long-term reflux of acid into the gullet (oesophagus), which occurs in some cases. These include:

  • Oesophagitis. This is an inflammation of the lining of the gullet, caused by the acid washing against it over time. This can usually be treated with proton pump inhibitors as mentioned above.
  • Cough. Sometimes the acid reflux can go back up and affect the voice box area (larynx) and give you a constant tickly cough. This can also usually be treated successfully with anti-reflux medicines.
  • Narrowing (a stricture). If you have severe and long-standing inflammation it can cause scarring and narrowing of the lower oesophagus. This is uncommon.
  • Twisting (volvulus) or strangulation (trapping of the hernia with blockage of the circulation). These are rare complications which can occur with the uncommon para-oesophageal type of hiatus hernia.
  • Barrett’s oesophagus. The lining of the oesophagus is made up of a number of units called cells. In Barrett’s oesophagus the cells that line the lower oesophagus change. The changed cells are more prone than usual to becoming cancerous. (About 1 in 20 men and 1 in 33 women with Barrett’s oesophagus develop cancer of the oesophagus.)
  • Cancer. Your risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus is slightly increased compared with the normal risk if you have long-term acid reflux. This small increased risk is slightly higher still in people with reflux plus a hiatus hernia. This is because reflux problems, on average, tend to be more severe in people with a hiatus hernia compared to those without a hiatus hernia.

Note: it has to be stressed that most people with reflux or hiatus hernia do not develop any of these complications. They are uncommon. Tell your doctor if you have pain or difficulty when you swallow (food sticking), which may be the first symptom of a complication. See your doctor if your symptoms aren’t being controlled by the medicines you have been prescribed, or if there is any change.

Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

How do you do breathing exercises?

There are lots of breathing exercises you can do to help relax. The first exercise below—belly breathing—is simple to learn and easy to do. It’s best to start there if you have never done breathing exercises before. The other exercises are more advanced. All of these exercises can help you relax and relieve stress.

Belly breathing

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  4. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  5. Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Next steps

After you have mastered belly breathing, you may want to try one of these more advanced breathing exercises. Try all three, and see which one works best for you:

  • 4-7-8 breathing
  • Roll breathing
  • Morning breathing

4-7-8 breathing

This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax. You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down.

  1. To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.
  2. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
  3. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
  4. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
  5. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Roll breathing

Roll breathing helps you to develop full use of your lungs and to focus on the rhythm of your breathing. You can do it in any position. But while you are learning, it is best to lie on your back with your knees bent.

  1. Put your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest. Notice how your hands move as you breathe in and out.
  2. Practice filling your lower lungs by breathing so that your “belly” (left) hand goes up when you inhale and your “chest” (right) hand remains still. Always breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Do this 8 to 10 times.
  3. When you have filled and emptied your lower lungs 8 to 10 times, add the second step to your breathing: inhale first into your lower lungs as before, and then continue inhaling into your upper chest. Breathe slowly and regularly. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little as your belly falls.
  4. As you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet, whooshing sound as first your left hand and then your right hand fall. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body as you become more and more relaxed.
  5. Practice breathing in and out in this way for 3 to 5 minutes. Notice that the movement of your belly and chest rises and falls like the motion of rolling waves.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Practice roll breathing daily for several weeks until you can do it almost anywhere. You can use it as an instant relaxation tool anytime you need one.

Caution: Some people get dizzy the first few times they try roll breathing. If you begin to breathe too fast or feel lightheaded, slow your breathing. Get up slowly.

Morning breathing

Try this exercise when you first get up in the morning to relieve muscle stiffness and clear clogged breathing passages. Then use it throughout the day to relieve back tension.

  1. From a standing position, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.
  2. As you inhale slowly and deeply, return to a standing position by rolling up slowing, lifting your head last.
  3. Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this standing position.
  4. Exhale slowly as you return to the original position, bending forward from the waist.
  5. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

When you or your kids are stressed and need to relax, don’t point them to the TV or the pantry. Chips or channels don’t provide relief. Instead, take a deep breath.

Deep breathing is an easy way to relax and let your worries go. You can do it pretty much anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes.

Also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and abdominal breathing, it helps ease stress. It can also lower your blood pressure and relax tense muscles. When you learn healthy ways to relax, it can be easier to avoid unhealthy choices. Stress makes it harder to make healthy choices like picking good foods or finding the energy to exercise. When you’re relaxed, you can be more mindful.

Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to blow away your stress, then teach your kids how to manage stress in a helpful way. Everyone can benefit from a little calming, healthy relaxation.

1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Choose a spot where you know you won’t be disturbed. If sitting, keep your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes.

2. Place one hand on your belly, just below your ribs. Place the other hand on your chest.

3. Take a regular breath.

4. Now take a slow, deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Pay attention as your belly swells up under your hand.

5. Holding your breath, pause for a second or two.

6. Slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pay attention as the hand on your belly goes in with the breath.

7. Do this several times until you have a calming rhythm.

8. Now add images to your breathing. As you inhale, imagine that the air you’re breathing is spreading relaxation and calmness throughout your body.

9. As you exhale, imagine that your breath is whooshing away stress and tension.

10. Try to deep breathe for 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed and less stressed. Gradually work your way up to 15-20 minutes.

Benefits of belly breathing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *