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Breathing: Diaphragmatic Breathing

This week’s blog is all about diaphragmatic breathing and how the diaphragm helps us all the time without us realising it.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

As you can probably gather, diaphragmatic breathing is related to the diaphragm.

Most of us know that the diaphragm is a large muscle at the base of the rib cage. We get the hiccoughs with the diaphragm spasms and it’s a little bit like a hot water bottle – bear with me!

The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the digestive cavity, which means it’s separating the lungs and the heart from things like the intestines and the liver.

What happens in diaphragmatic breathing?

This sheet muscle curves up and under the rib cage. This is where using a hot water bottle comes in. I need you to imagine a hot water bottle wall which is draped like an old-fashion umbrella that comes all the way down the sides. When the muscle isn’t active, it looks like an umbrella.

This is a huge muscle, which is why diaphragmatic breathing is such a big deal.

When you then engage that muscle, it pulls down and out. And as that happens, the lungs are pulled down and out with it, increasing the volume capacity of the lungs – allowing more air in.

If you lie on the floor, facing the ceiling, and place your fingers together, over your belly. When you breath in, your fingers will pull apart. When you breathe out, they should come back together. Now think about what’s going on when you breathe. What muscles are you using, what’s moving, what sensations can you feel? And the important thing is that you’re gonna feel your tummy coming up and out. This is the most effective form of breathing for pushing your voice out with the greatest power, using the least amount of energy.

When you stand up, you can take that practise and use it again in the standing position. It may take some practise to really think about what muscles you’re using. Place your fingers on your torso and breathe in deeply, feeling your tummy being pushed out.

To begin with, diaphragmatic breathing can be difficult for people to learn because they don’t want to push their tummy out. But that’s what it takes. Our shoulders or chest should never move upwards during diaphragmatic breathing, just our tummies out.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on. Check out last week’s blog here or sign up to receive the latest updates in our newsletter.