It’s simple, it’s free, it can reduce stress & tension in your body and can help you prepare for & recover from childbirth – it’s called Diaphragmatic Breathing. Let me shed some light on what this means, why it is so powerful & how you do it.
Diaphragmatic Breathing (or Abdominal Breathing) is a breathing pattern that utilises our diaphragm & the bases of our lungs rather than just our upper lungs – as is the case with normal, shallow breathing. Diaphragmatic Breathing allows more oxygen to be exchanged in the lung tissue & therefore pumped around the body. It also stimulates the Vagus Nerve which in turn stimulates our Parasympathetic Nervous System. This lowers our heart rate & blood pressure, promoting “rest & digest” and self-healing in our body. This is exactly what our body needs when it is stressed or recovering from childbirth.
The Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing:
- Calms & centres the mind
- Reduces stress & anxiety
- Improves sleep patterns
- Improves circulation
- Reduces muscle tension & overactivity
- Relaxes the pelvic floor
- Helps prepare for labour
- Assists recovery after childbirth
- Returns the body to a state of equilibrium
- Teaches your body to naturally breathe deeper during the day
- Increases energy levels
- Promotes mindfulness
- Allows us to respond more positively to challenges in life
Follow these simple steps to learn Diaphragmatic Breathing:
1. Lie on your side with your head on a pillow & your knees bent. You can be on a bed, the couch or a mat on the ground. Just make sure you are comfortable.
2. Place one hand on your chest & the other on your upper stomach, under your breasts.
3. Close your eyes & bring your awareness to the breath in & out through your nose.
4. When you next breathe in, keep your top hand (on your chest) as still as possible, directing the air you breathe in to your bottom hand (on your stomach). Feel your stomach & hand rise with the breath in.
5. On the breathe out through your nose, let your hand & stomach gently sink back in towards your spine. Let the breathe out be natural, not forced.
6. Continue focusing on the breath in & out, keeping your chest & shoulders as still as possible, letting your belly rise & fall slowly.
7. Maintain a slow, regular pace with deep, quiet breaths.
8. Now move your bottom hand down to the middle of your belly, directing the air in through your nose, allowing your whole belly to expand. This may feel somewhat uneasy, as there is a feeling of letting the belly hang out.
9. Feel the belly gently retract as you breathe out through your nose.
10. Take a few slow deep breaths with your hand in this position.
11. Now move your hand down to your lower torso, pelvic region. As you breathe in through your nose feel your lower belly/pelvis fill with air, softening & expanding under your hand.
12. Take a few slow deep breaths with your hand in this position.
13. Finally move your hand to your bottom near your pelvic floor. Focus on the air you breathe in flowing all the way through your body, filling your entire pelvis, bottom & to your pelvic floor. As you continue to do this, you will feel your hand subtly rise & fall with the breath in & out. This is indicative of your pelvic floor relaxing.
14. Take a few slow deep breaths with your hand in this position.
15. You can remain in this position for as long as it serves you. When you are ready to finish, slowly crack open your eyes & make your way to a sitting position before getting up.
- Since you are human, your mind is likely to wander during the practise. When you catch yourself thinking about something else, bring your awareness back to the sensation of your breath in & out through your nose. Continue to redirect your mind back to the breath as it wanders.
- You can do Diaphragmatic Breathing for as long as you like. I recommend at least 10minutes to allow your nervous system to calm down. Do this daily if you are stressed, have pelvic floor overactivity, or are experiencing pelvic pain or painful sex.
- Your hand is a guide to help direct the breath through your body. Once you are familiar with the practise you can do it just by using visualisation.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing is not meant to be easy for our busy minds, so if you become bored or irritated, you’re not alone! Push through the urge to give up, as the more you teach your body & mind to slow down & relax, the easier it becomes and the more benefits you will notice.
So next time you feel stressed out, tense or in pain give this simple relaxation technique a go. Tell me in the comments below how it made you feel.