Diaphragmatic Breathing or “Belly Breathing.”The diaphragm is the biggest muscle in the body. We have many breathing muscles, and many accessory breathing muscles, but the diaphragm is the primary breathing muscle.

Diaphragmatic Breathing is fundamental to healthy breathing and healthy living. The lower part of the lungs are diffused with blood vessels. This is where the most efficient exchange of gases takes place. So we need to learn to easily, naturally, automatically breathe into these lower lung spaces.

Many people have the habit of breathing quick shallow breaths, high in their chest. This pattern activates the “fight or flight reflex.” And so it tends to keep us anxious or on the edge of irritation and anxiety. The rule for controlling anxiety is to breathe slowly into the belly. The basic anti-stress breathing pattern is “Low and Slow.” Make it your unconscious habit!

Many men often deliberately assume the military posture of “gut in, chest out” to project an image of strength and courage. And this can become an automatic unconscious chronic posture that blocks full free breathing into the belly.

Many women are concerned about their appearance, and so they also hold their belly in. (A flat tummy after all, is what all the fashion magazines promote as ideal and beautiful!)

Fear of sexual energy, sexual trauma, self-consciousness, or embarrassment about these feelings can cause people to freeze, contract, or hold their pelvis and lower abdominal area. Tension or discomfort due to digestive problems or menstrual changes can also cause habitual holding, tension, contraction in the abdomen.

Full free smooth rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing can wash away all this trauma. It can serve to heal these issues. In any case, we need to relax and breathe fully and freely if we want to live fully and freely, and this begins with allowing more breath energy into the belly.

EXERCISE

Lay on your back with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Put a book or some other object like a small sand bag on your belly. When you inhale, lift the book up with your breath. When you breathe out, let the book settle down again. Breathe rhythmically, and as you are breathing in and out, see that the book is moving up and down.

While sitting, place your hands over your belly button…interlace your fingers very lightly. When you inhale, the breath should cause your hands to move apart. When you exhale the hands should come together again.

When standing: place your hands on each side of your waist, above your hips. (This posture is called “arms akimbo.”) When you exhale, squeeze your hands toward your midline, and squeeze your fingers together. When you inhale, you should feel the breath moving your hands apart and spreading your fingers open.

Gradually apply more pressure with your hands and fingers, in order to resist the expansion, and inhaling against this external pressure.