Diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, or abdominal breathing is a popular breathing technique. Breathing, according to this technique, is not only a need but a skill to make life more enjoyable. It is a way to bring in maximum benefits from any physical activity. The movement of the abdomen resembles that of a baby, with rhythmic rising and falling. In most cases, breathing becomes very shallow due to all of the stress the body and mind undergoes. This leads to chest breathing, which is considered to be inefficient when compared to abdominal breathing. If chest breathing continues, it may lead to constriction of abdominal muscles affecting the person’s ability to take deep breaths.
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces the heart rate and allows the muscles to relax. This technique helps in improving oxygen supply to different parts of the body. Moreover, diaphragmatic breathing is also helpful in strengthening the diaphragm, the dome shaped muscle separating the chest and the abdomen. The effort and energy required for this type of breathing is less, when compared to chest breathing.
To practice belly breathing one can lie down with knees bent or just sitting down. Keep one hand on the lower part of the abdomen to feel the movement during breathing. Ensure to relax the shoulders and keep the spine straight. The throat should be relaxed and open. While breathing in, inhale air slowly and allow it to pass the chest expanding the sides and then down the spine towards the hip bone. This will push the abdomen a little to the front. While exhaling, the reverse is true starting from the lower abdomen into the belly and then to the chest. Relax and be gentle with the try. The technique should be repeated till it becomes easy to control the rhythm of breathing. When one is able to control his or her breathing, it can be easier to control emotions as well.
Initially, one should repeat the steps for three to four minutes every day. As one becomes comfortable with the technique, the time and the effort spent on the exercise can also be increased. Deep breathing is known to control anxiety and stress. This is a very good technique for achieving deep relaxation too.