In the previous blog we discussed the principles of breathing, and one of the key principles is that stress directly affects breathing. Stressful environments such as an interaction with a specific person, locations that harbor past feelings, pain and discomfort are potential triggers to stress breathing. Stress breathing comes from the chest and neck regions in the form of short shallow breathing. This form of accelerated breathing activates our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). It is important to note that in certain situations/goals this breathing pattern is needed (at the right time and right amount). Unfortunately too many individuals become dominant in this form of breathing, and can have physiological and psychological ramifications. One strategy an individual can utilize is practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that allows one to engage their abdominal cavity in conjunction with their chest cavity. This form of breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which aids in digestion, elimination, and can alleviate stress.
Another principle of breathing is that it is pressure orientated. When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves down compressing the liver creating an air pressure that moves across the abdominal cavity. Upon exhalation the pressure then moves up towards the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is an excellent strategy to optimize pressure relationships within the body.
How to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
Step 1: The physical environment is a consideration when performing diaphragmatic breathing. We know that stressful situations will activate the sympathetic nervous system, so it only makes sense that the environment surrounding us is optimal for creating relaxation.
Step 2: It is important to note that the first two thirds of the breath come from the abdomen, the last one third from the chest.
Step 3: In an upright stance, place one hand on your belly, and the other hand on your chest.
Step 4: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth as you inhale fully through your nose. This action will help activate the nerve endings in your nose to promote the parasympathetic nervous system.
Step 5: Upon full inhalation, exhale fully from your mouth – pause – and repeat.
Step 6: Ensure that the hand on your belly moves first, with the hand our your chest moves last. This sequence is vital to diaphragmatic breathing.