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Three Tips for Diaphragmatic Breathing

Man breathing in winter.

Diaphragmatic breathing is synonymous with deep breathing. According to Harvard Medical School, "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure."

In our fast paced culture, it is important we take time to slow down what we are doing and take deep breaths. Here are 3 easy steps to make sure you are putting the most oxygen in your blood.

Step 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Lay on your belly with your head turned in either direction, your arms relaxed at your side, and your palms and bottoms of your feet facing upward towards the sky. Begin feeling the breath inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Keep your attention here for a few more breaths. Now, bring your attention to your belly against the floor. Notice how it presses against the floor and expands into the ribcage and up the back as you breath in. Notice your stomach compresses back in towards the spine as you exhale. Continue breathing, keeping your attention on your belly.

When you feel relaxed, you can slowly make your way to a seated position.

Diaphragmatic breathing is counterintuitive to the way most humans breath. As newborns, we intuitively use our diaphragm to breath. As we experience the world, our emotions, our constant collection of thoughts, our aspirations and memories, the breath becomes shorter and rises into our chest, which is beneficial for shorter breaths. We may even begin to breathe through our mouth, giving us more breath in a shorter period of time. Over many years, this wears on the body. By breathing through the diaphragm, we begin to experience more relaxation resulting in a calmer nervous system. This allows our body to repair and renew itself in the ways intended.

Step 2: Hand to Belly

Sit comfortably on a chair or cross-legged. Make sure your hips are propped up by a blanket or a bolster if you are seated cross-legged. Direct your attention to the breath inhaling through your nose and exhaling out your nose. Now, put your right hand on your belly. Experience the belly expanding as you inhale. Experience the belly contracting back towards your spine as you exhale.

Step 3: Full Yogic Breath

Sit comfortably on a chair or cross-legged. Make sure your hips are propped up by a blanket or a bolster if you are seated cross-legged. Inhale through your nose. As you inhale, notice your belly expanding. Continue your inhale and notice your rib cage expanding. Continue inhaling again and notice your chest and shoulders rising. When you get to the top of the inhale, hold your breath for a count of two and exhale through your nose. As you exhale, notice the shoulders and chest deflate first. Continue your exhale and notice the ribcage contracting back towards the spine. Finally, continue your exhale and notice the stomach contacting back towards the spine. This is one cycle of the 3 part yogic breath. This can be practiced for 5 minutes when the need is to relax the body, nervous system, clear the mind, or before going to bed to fall asleep.

Diaphragmatic breathing is an important reminder to slow down our thoughts and relax the nervous system. Goal: Make it your intention to practice diaphragmatic breathing before you eat a meal. This should aid in digestion and help to be mindful while eating.

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