Stress Relief Technique: Diaphragmatic Breathing – By Cortney Welch

Stress Happens

We have all been on the verge of a breakdown at one point or another in our lives. Stress happens and affects us all in different ways. How we handle that stress is up to us. There is no one right way to handle stress, but instead several techniques and methods to doing so. Meditating, exercising, writing in a diary, laughing, doing yoga, drinking less caffeine, and listening to relaxing music are all some common ways people relieve stress. My focus in this blog is about diaphragmatic breathing as a stress relieving technique. I first learned about this technique during my undergraduate degree in one of my lab classes. We spent a class practicing and learning about how to properly perform this unique technique in order to reach a higher level of physical and mental relaxation. When performed correctly, it is amazing how focusing on something as simple as breathing can ease your mind.

Everyone thinks that breathing occurs naturally and voluntarily everyday, all day. This is mostly true, however, there are several instances of dysfunctional breathing. Examples of dysfunctional breathing are labored breaths, asthmatic breathing symptoms, hyperventilation, or staggered/irregular breath. Many people may breathe incorrectly without realizing it. Diaphragmatic breathing has two functions, proper respiration and postural stabilization. First and foremost ,breathing is almost entirely based upon posture. For example, if you are bent over with a rounded spine facing the ground, you are not going to be able to fully expand your diaphragm, therefore your breathing will become inefficient. However, if your spine is neutral and upright, your breathing will improve and you will be able to inhale properly. Trainers and therapists have come up with several ways to improve breathing patterns one being the guided breath technique. The guided breath technique is one in which the client will place two hands, one on their chest and one on their stomach, to determine which needs to rise first. This technique forces clients to engage their core and allows for therapists to create a regime for breathing patterns that their clients need. I believe that inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly is very potent and will allow you to practice improving your breathing patterns.

        

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The picture above demonstrates what anatomically occurs while you breathe. The diaphragm is a muscle located at the base of the lungs. Let’s go over the simple steps to successfully practice diaphragm breathing or belly breathing. 

1) Direct your attention to your abdominal region and begin by standing or lying flat on your back. 

2) Relax your entire body and take a few deep breaths.

3) Place your hand one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen, in order to feel which is rising and falling first.

4) The beginning of each deep breath should begin with simultaneous abdominal protrusion (pushing out your belly).

5) Abdomen should naturally begin to distend with each breath and if performed correctly, the diaphragm will contract and drop allowing an even deeper breath to occur.

6) Repeat these steps several times throughout your day.

The picture below portrays numbered steps for inhaling and exhaling. As you take your first deep inhale, your stomach should push out followed by the mid chest rising and lastly the upper chest rising. When you exhale, the reverse will occur. Your stomach will lower followed by your chest and rib cage; hence the name belly breathing. I encourage you to try this technique whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Focus and see if you notice a difference when you concentrating only on breathing. Even if you aren’t stressed you can practice this technique to really tune into your body and relax! Check out our Instagram @getmomentumfit for a video of diaphragmatic breathing for another visual aid.

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