Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing or belly breathing, is a breathing technique that involves using the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle located between the chest and abdominal cavity, to promote efficient breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing allows for increased oxygen intake and better utilization of lung capacity compared to shallow chest breathing. It also helps to maintain better stability through your trunk and abdomen because the diaphragm works together with your abdominal muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing is often used in relaxation techniques, stress reduction, mindfulness practices such as pilates or yoga, and various forms of meditation.
The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in breathing. It is located below the lungs and separates your chest cavity from your abdomen. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and flattens which, like a vacuum, causes your lungs to expand and fill with air. When the diaphragm relaxes, the air is expelled from the lungs as the diaphragm moves upward and the abdominal muscles contract. The diaphragm works together with the core (abdominal) muscles to stabilize your trunk.
To perform diaphragmatic breathing, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach and begin to breathe in through your nose. While breathing in through your nose, focus on having the hand on your stomach rise while keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.
Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth for five more seconds like you are gently blowing out a candle. Try this for five to ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day. Once you feel comfortable with it, try it while sitting, standing, walking, or exercising.
There are many benefits of diaphragmatic breathing for athletes.
Deep breathing has been shown to help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which can have positive effects on cardiovascular health. And, by reducing stress and promoting relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing may also lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Diaphragmatic breathing activates the body's relaxation response, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. It also triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators and can promote a sense of calm.
Deep breathing allows for more efficient use of the lungs by fully engaging the diaphragm and maximizing the amount of oxygen that can be drawn into the lower parts of the lungs. This can result in increased oxygenation of the blood and improved respiratory function.
Diaphragmatic breathing can help maintain trunk engagement and stability during exercises by activating the diaphragm, engaging the deep core muscles, improving breathing control, and enhancing coordination. By incorporating belly breathing into exercise routines, individuals can optimize their performance, reduce the risk of injuries, and promote better overall stability and alignment of the trunk.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful and effective technique that offers a wide range of benefits for athletes’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It is a simple yet impactful practice that can be easily incorporated into one's lifestyle.
At MAVEN, we incorporate and encourage diaphragmatic breathing in a number of areas such as physical therapy, pilates, strength and conditioning, and sport-specific training. Belly breathing encourages core engagement and stability, promotes relaxation which in turn lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and encourages efficient breathing to improve respiratory function for athletes with asthma or COPD.