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Diaphragm Breathing Exercises

The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle in the middle of your abdomen. It contracts when your take a breath, expands your chest and fill your lungs with oxygen-rich air. Neglecting to breath from your diaphragm can result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and various neurological conditions. The American Medical Student Association explains that diaphragmatic breathing can avoid lung infections. Fortunately, a variety of exercises can train you to use your diaphragm for breathing.

The easiest way to determine if you are using your diaphragm for breathing is a simple exercise. Begin by placing one hand high on your chest and the other hand lower on your stomach. Take a breath and notice which hand rises. If the hand over your stomach rises, you are breathing with your diaphragm. When taking a breath, try and make the hand over your stomach rise more so than the hand on your upper chest. Do this while taking a few deep breaths.

To perform the crossing technique, start in a comfortable seated position with proper posture and cross your arms in your lap. Then bring your arms up and over your head. As you do so, take a deep breath into your abdomen as described above. When you exhale, let your arms come back down to the starting position. Bringing your arms above your head helps expand your chest, allowing your diaphragm to properly inflate your lungs.

The butterfly technique is similar to the crossing technique. This exercise is designed to help spread and stretch the muscles of your chest. You start the butterfly by sitting up straight with your hands behind your head. Once in position, take a deep breath with your diaphragm; at the same time, keep your hands on the back of your head and spread your elbows apart. As you exhale, lean toward your knees and bring your elbows back together. Then sit back upright and spread your elbows as you breathe in.

Pursed-lip breathing is oftentimes used as an adjunct exercise with the breathing exercises described above. The Cleveland Clinic states that this exercise is the simplest way to control shortness of breath. To perform pursed-lip breathing, take a belly breath and slowly exhale with pursed lips. To do this exercise correctly, imagine that you are blowing on a candle flame, not hard enough to blow it out but hard enough to make it move. This technique ensures that your airway stays open longer, allowing for easier breathing. It can be done with any diaphragmatic breathing exercise.

Photo Credits:

  • chinese woman holding an x-ray image by Allen Penton from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.