We have two primary modes of operation in our body: one is fight or flight, and the other is rest and digest. We have all heard of fight or flight. Fight or flight is a response to acute stressors like being chased by a saber tooth tiger. Fight or flight is when our nervous system is on alert. Our body's fight or flight mode should come on quickly and go away after the stressor has passed, then we return to rest and digest. Fight or flight is perfect if a saber tooth tiger is attacking you - but that does not happen much anymore. However, today's world has many other stressors: finances, work, the economy, school shootings, wars, illness, etc. Sometimes our bodies can go into fight or flight mode and not quickly return to rest and digest. Diaphragmatic breathing can help you return to rest and digest.

Diaphragmatic breathing offers several benefits, including:

 1   It can help you to relax and alleviate anxiety.

 2   It can improve your breathing during exercises and preventing strain.

 3   It can increase how much oxygen is in your blood.

 4   It can make for easier release of gas waste from your lungs.

 5   It can help reduce blood pressure.

 6   It can help calm and reduce heart rate.

Almost everyone can benefit from diaphragmatic breathing exercises.

What is the Diaphragm?

Image of the Diaphragm and Breathing The diaphragm is a muscle located near the center of your belly that is shaped like a dome. It plays a key role in breathing by contracting when you inhale and relaxing when you exhale.

Over time or with certain health conditions, the diaphragm can weaken and make breathing more difficult. So keeping the diaphragm strong is essential for avoiding and alleviating breathing problems that can worsen issues like depression and anxiety.

Why is Diaphragmatic Breathing So Important?

Image of the Diaphragm and Breathing While breathing deeply seems pretty straightforward, many people are missing out on the intended effects by doing it incorrectly.

We tend to take a deep breath in and fill up our chest with air, unaware that we are not actually filling up the lungs.

The solution? Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing.

Focusing on drawing air down into the low parts of the belly allows you to fully fill the lungs, so you get the most physical and mental benefits from those deep breaths.

How Do I Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing?

It may feel awkward at first since we are taught to suck in our bellies to appear thinner and stengthen the abdominal muscles (abs). Engaging the abs is great, but while you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing, forget about your waistline so you can fully enjoy the benefits of this exercise.

To get started, we have an entire page dedicated to instructions for diaphragm breathing.

Where Can I Learn More?

We have an entire page dedicated to instructions for diaphragm breathing.
Cleveland Clinic has a great informational page about diaphragmatic breathing.
Harvard Health Publishing has a page about Learning diaphragmatic breathing.
Physiopedia has a page about Diaphragmatic Brerathing Exercises.
Nell Mead - Physiotherapist has a great page, with videos, all about Training your diaphragm to help relieve pain and stress.