During my first weekend of training to become a yoga instructor, I learned a lot of great information about proper breathing techniques that I had to share with you guys!
We spent quite a while taking about the importance of being able to breathe from your diaphragm, which is the primary muscle we are supposed to use to breathe. It’s a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that’s located in the lower section of your ribs. You know that you’re using your diaphragm to breathe if every time you intake, your stomach expands.
Why you need to breathe from your diaphragm
Growing up I thought breathing from my chest was the best way to breathe because I was allowing my lungs to fully expand. It turns out that was I WRONG!!
You see, your diaphragm sits just below your lungs and when you use it to breathe, it will sink down closer to your intestines so your lungs have the maximum amount of space to expand. If you don’t breathe from your diaphragm, you’re not only depriving your body of the oxygen it needs, you’re not allowing it to release its excess carbon dioxide stores.
Organs connected to the diaphragm
Although your diaphragm stretches across the width of your chest cavity, it has special openings that make a path for blood vessels and nerves to pass through. This creates a communication channel between the organs that are situated on either side of it.
What sits above the diaphragm?
Your lungs and heart are the only two organs that are above the diaphragm. As I’m sure you know, these organs help you:
- Breathe in enough oxygen,
- Circulate fresh, oxygen-rich blood to all your tissues.
What organs are below the diaphragm?
Your stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, small & large intestines, spleen and kidneys are situated below the diaphragm. When these organs have enough room to function they will:
- Properly digest your food,
- Absorb important nutrients,
- Store eliminate toxins,
- Break down poisons,
- Destroy harmful bacteria,
- Produce new blood cells,
- Filter and regulate the concentrations of water and solutes in the blood,
- Excrete wwaste products through urine
What are the consequences of not breathing from your diaphragm?
As you can see, so many of your major organs are connected to the diaphragm. Logically, it makes sense to note that if you don’t allow the it to fully expand and communicate with the organs connected to it, there are health issues you’re more likely to develop. Some of the most common issues are heart disease, joint/muscle pain, weight gain, fatigue, dizziness and exhaustion.
The type of issue you develop is related to the different types of non-diaphragmatic breathing people do. Over the next few weeks (a new one every Tuesday so you have time to take in the information), I’ll explain what these breathing patterns are and how they affect your body.
Breathing from your diaphragm is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Learning how to do so is simple – when you’re in a quiet place take 2-3 minutes to lie down and focus on your breath. Every time you inhale, make a concerted effort to breathe from your stomach and not your chest.
During this time try to breathe only through your nostrils and every time you inhale, it should become more and more natural for the bulk of that air to go into your belly, causing it to expand.
Don’t worry if this doesn’t become second nature right away. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I breathed from my chest through my childhood and it took me a solid 3 months of practice to make the switch from chest breathing to diaphragmatic breathing.
Remember that each time you can breathe through your diaphragm, you are doing something good for your body and it will use the benefits to its advantage. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect!