Deep breathing exercises are easy to do and can be readily incorporated into your everyday life.
Read on now to learn:
- How to do deep breathing exercises (video)
- Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing exercises
- Deep breathing exercises for your pelvic floor and your core
- How many breathing exercises to practice
How to do Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises normalize breathing patterns so the diaphragm is used appropriately with the trunk muscles during regular breathing. Incorrect upper chest breathing is minimized and the upper abdominal muscles are relaxed during diaphragmatic breathing.
This deep breathing video shows you how to breath deeply using the correct technique for breathing exercises.
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Deep Breathing Exercise Technique
Start standing, sitting upright or lying down with your upper body slightly raised if possible.
- Place one hand on your upper abdomen just below your sternum and the other hand at the side of your chest on the lower part of your rib cage.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply so that you feel your belly rise under your hand and your rib cage expand sideways.
- You may notice your lower rib cage move wide under your other hand – remember the focus is upon keeping the upper chest muscles relaxed and using the diaphragm to breathe.
- Breathe out by letting your rib cage fall back to resting.
- You should feel a gentle rise and fall of your belly beneath your hand as you breath in and out.
Progressing Deep Breathing Exercises
- When you have mastered diaphragmatic breathing exercises lying down, it is important to practice doing them sitting and standing upright.
- Don’t forget the need for good upright posture in allowing you to do your breathing exercises effectively. Move around and walk with diaphragmatic breathing when you feel confident to do so.
What is Deep Breathing Exercise ?
Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing, Yoga breathing or abdominal breathing. This is a breathing exercise and technique that promotes increased lung capacity and oxygenation using the diaphragm (main breathing muscle). The diaphragm is a dome–shaped muscle that sits under the lungs (see below).
Here’s how your diaphragm moves as you breathe:
When you breathe in your diaphragm contracts and moves downwards into your abdomen. This downward movement creates a vacuum inside your chest causing air to enter and fill up your lungs.
Your diaphragm relaxes when you breathe out allowing air to passively leave your lungs.
Benefits of Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing can benefit your overall health by:
- Improving lung capacity (amount of air entering the lungs)
- Increasing circulating oxygen levels
- Reducing fatigue with exercise
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Improving core deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscle function
Deep Breathing Exercises and Core Muscles
The way you breathe affects the tone in your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
Your trunk is like a cylinder surrounded by muscles that should work together during breathing. The muscles surrounding your trunk cylinder include your diaphragm (top of the cylinder), your deep abdominal muscles wrapping around your trunk (the sides of the cylinder) and your pelvic floor muscles at the base of this cylinder.
During regular breathing your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are also active to help maintain pressure in your trunk cylinder.
When you breathe in deeply during diaphragmatic breathing, the pressure inside your abdomen is increased so that your pelvic floor muscles need to contract even more strongly to maintain your continence.
Learning deep breathing technique and practicing breathing exercises can help the coordinated activity of your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. This is a vital first step in treating prolapse or incontinence problems in women and men.
Posture, Breathing and Pelvic Floor Problems
You will notice it’s difficult to fill your lungs and breathe deeply with slumped forward posture. This is because slumped posture compresses your abdominal contents so that your diaphragm can’t move downwards. This creates the need to use your upper chest muscles to help you breathe.
Slumped forward position and breathing with the upper chest muscles increase pressure on the pelvic floor.
When you are slumped forwards, your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles can’t work well to counteract this increased pressure. This is why correct posture is very important in helping your diaphragm, pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to work well together.
If you live with a prolapse, bladder control problems good upright posture, diaphragmatic breathing exercises along with regular pelvic floor exercises can help you optimise your pelvic floor training.
How Many Deep Breathing Exercises?
Start out doing the number of breathing exercises that feel comfortable for you.
- Perform up to 3-4 deep breathing exercises in a row (beginners)
- Try to build on this up to 4-5 deep breaths at a time
Practice these breathing exercises at regular intervals throughout the course of your day when learning this technique.
Breathe slowly and deeply using your diaphragm to inhale and let the air passively leave your body, don’t force the air out of your lungs.
Sometimes deep breathing can make you feel a little out of breath when starting out, especially if you’re accustomed to breathing with your upper chest. If this happens stop, take a break and try again later when you feel recovered.
The ultimate goal is to promote a pattern of deep breathing and reduce upper chest breathing as you go about your daily life. Regular daily practice will help you achieve this goal.