Diaphragmatic Breathing

What It Is

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing or belly breathing, is a technique that involves using the diaphragm, a large muscle located between the chest and abdomen, to facilitate efficient breathing. This type of breathing allows for deeper inhalations and exhalations, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

Why It Works

Diaphragmatic breathing works by engaging the diaphragm, which allows for a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. This promotes relaxation by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the body's "rest and digest" response. It also helps reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, associated with the body's "fight or flight" response to stress.

How To Do It


1.  Relax Your Body
Take a moment to relax your muscles.  Ensure that your shoulders are relaxed, and your body is in a comfortable, neutral position.


2. Place Your Hands

You can place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.  This allows you to feel the movement of your breath more clearly.


3. Inhale Slowly through Your Nose

Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs with air.  Your chest should remain relatively still during this phase.


4. Exhale Slowly through Your Mouth

Exhale slowly and gently through your mouth.  As you do so, allow your abdomen to fall naturally.


5.  Continue to Inhale and Exhale

Aim for 4-6 second inhale and 4-6 second exhale. Practice for a few minutes (2-10 minutes recommended).

Helpful Tips:

  • Find a comfortable and quiet space.
  • Close your eyes (optional).
  • Focus on your breathing.  Pay close attention to the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body.
  • Purse your lips when you exhale.  Similar to blowing out candles.
  • Feel the rise and fall of your abdomen.
  • Maintain a rhythm. Try to establish a steady rhythm of breathing, making sure that each inhalation and exhalation is smooth and controlled.
  • Breathing should feel comfortable and natural.  If you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable, return to your regular breathing pattern.
  • Practice regularly.  Like any skill, diaphragmatic breathing improves with practice.  Aim to incorporate it into your daily routine, especially during times of stress or when you need to relax.


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Top Videos:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

Diaphragmatic Breathing Demonstration

Michigan Medicine

Diaphragmatic Breathing

UCLA Health

Influential Books:

The Healing Power of the Breath
by Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg

In The Healing Power of the Breath, Dr. Richard P. Brown and Dr. Patricia L. Gerbarg provide a different way to treat stress: breathing. Drawn from yoga, Buddhist meditation, the Chinese practice of qigong, and other sources, their science-backed methods activate communication pathways between the mind and body to positively impact the brain and calm the stress response. 

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art 
by James Nestor

Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.

Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.

The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work
by Donna Farhi

Internationally renowned yoga instructor Donna Farhi presents a refreshingly simple and practical guide to reestablishing proper breathing techniques that will dramatically improve your physical and mental health. Complete with more that seventy-five photos and illustrations, The Breathing Book offers a thorough and inspiring program that you can tailor to your specific needs. Whether you need an energy boost or are seeking a safe, hassle-free way to cope with everyday stress, you will find answers here.

Academic Studies:

  • Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(1), 189-201.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15750381/

  • Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses, 67(3), 566-571.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16624497/

  • Lehrer, P. M., Vaschillo, E., & Vaschillo, B. (2000). Resonant frequency biofeedback training to increase cardiac variability: Rationale and manual for training. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 25(3), 177-191.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10999236/

  • Pal, G. K., Velkumary, S., & Madanmohan. (2004). Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 120(2), 115-121.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15347862/

These academic studies provide valuable insights into the practice and benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, both from a practical and scientific perspective. They cover topics ranging from the physiological effects to practical applications in stress reduction and mental well-being.

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