What’s all the hype about Diaphragmatic Breathing?
If you follow Dr. Hannah on social media, you’ve seen that she's been posting a lot about breathing - specifically, diaphragmatic breathing. So, what’s all the hype about and why is it one of the most under-rated techniques we have access to when addressing symptoms?
What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing optimizes the full potential of your largest muscle of respiration – the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a muscle that sits just under your ribcage and contracts and lengthens just like any other muscle in your body. When we inhale, our diaphragm lengthens down towards our feet and when we exhale, our diaphragm lifts up towards our head.
As normal humans dealing with the stressors of life, we tend to develop a pattern of shallow breathing. Therefore, we are never allowing our diaphragm to move through its full exertion, and it can get stuck in a shortened (lifted) or lengthened (lowered) position. This can lead to us not getting enough oxygen into our bodies which can cause headaches, fatigue, light-headedness, and stiffness.
Why should you care?
Diaphragmatic breathing has tons of benefits on both our mental and physical health. Some of those benefits are:
Reduce stress and anxiety
We have a nerve that runs straight down our torso and through our diaphragm - the Vagus Nerve. Its job is to help get us out of our flight or fight state (times of increased stress or anxiety) and into the rest and digest state.
When we take slow, deep, long breaths we are stimulating this nerve which helps to decrease our heart rate and blood pressure and brings us into the rest and digest state.
Increased oxygen helps our muscles recover, can reduce feelings of fatigue, improves blood flow
Improve pelvic floor muscle function and coordination
Our pelvic floor muscles mimic our diaphragm.
When we inhale, our pelvic floor muscles should lengthen down towards our feet, when we exhale, they should contract and lift up towards our head.
If our diaphragm is stuck in a shortened or lengthened position, then our pelvic floor muscles probably are too.
Most commonly, our diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles are stuck in a shortened state with increased tension, and this can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction such as pain with intercourse, constipation, feelings of heaviness, or leaking.
Improve problems with constipation
When we take a long inhale, this helps to relax our pelvic floor muscles which helps to improve bowel movements without bearing down.
Help maintain proper function of your lungs
Get old air out and new air in!
How is it different from normal breathing and how can you start to practice it?
During normal respiration, we’re typically taking shallow, short breaths. During diaphragmatic breathing, we want to try and take slow, long breaths. When you inhale you want to focus on relaxing your stomach muscles and expanding your ribcage as you fill with air. When you exhale just let the air "fall" out of your mouth or nose without any forceful contraction.
Try it - Take a breath!
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
Breathe in and out as you normally would - feel what moves.
Now take a slow, long breath IN through your nose. "Smell the roses".
See if it feels different.
Hopefully you feel your ribcage move first, followed by your belly!
You can practice this any time of day wherever you are – sitting, standing, laying down.
Check out this post for some other ways to get your ribcage moving!
Diaphragmatic breathing is NOT how we should be breathing all the time but taking 5 minutes a day to practice this technique can make a big difference!
If it feels like you're breathing all wrong, let us help! We will ASSESS you from a whole body perspective, figure out WHY it might feel hard to coordinate this type of breath, and give you a PLAN to feel your best!
Contact info: Hannah@4thtrimesterchs.com or head to our website: www.4thtrimesterchs.com.