Yoga teachers and physiotherapists often tell us to breathe into our belly and the importance of adopting diaphragmatic breathing. But what exactly is diaphragmatic breathing and why should we practice it? Well, diaphragmatic breathing is a breathing technique that requires you to hold your breath in to expand your chest and ribs out as far as you can. As we spend more and more time sitting in front of a computer, our posture slowly morphs into a more rounded shape, which changes our breathing pattern, which in turn affects the efficiency of our lungs.
To begin to understand what is it and how it works is to go through a little bit of anatomy of your lungs and the diaphragm.
- The rib cage has 12 ribs that connect from the thoracic vertebrae and wrap round to attach to the sternum
- Inside the rib cage sits your lungs which are spongy air filled sacs where gas exchange occurs.
- Air gets into your lungs via the trachea which sends air into both lungs, air then goes through bronchi. The bronchi divide smaller and smaller branches called the bronchioles. Bronchioles turn into little air sacs called alveoli where gas exchange occurs
- Underneath the lung sits a dome shaped muscle called the diaphragm. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and alters the volume of the lungs to aid with inspiration and expiration
Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing
- Decreased muscle tension through the body.
- Affects the nervous system, it decreases your heart rate, respiratory rate, the work of breathing and blood pressure
- Gets more oxygen into the body, aids with digestion, tissue healing and inflammation
- Improves lung capacity
- Provides mindfulness, stress relief, improves concentration
- Gently stretches your pelvic floor
- Stretches out intercostal muscles which are between the ribs which will help increase your lungs ability to expand
How to do diaphragmatic breathing
– in either sitting or lying place your hands on the bottom of your ribcage
– breathe in through your nose and feel your belly and ribcage expand
– then breathe out through your nose and feel your belly sink into your chest
– Continue practising this breathing pattern for 5-10 minutes or for as long as like
How can physiotherapy help you?
- A physiotherapist can assess your breathing pattern and identify areas that are restricting your breathing
- Teach you how to use your diaphragm to breathing deeping
- Teach you techniques to help if you have any breathing conditions such as asthma, COPD, anxiety.
- Improve your exercise tolerance
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