How to Breathe from Your Diaphragm for Better Health


Watch a sleeping baby and notice how gentle and flowing his breath is. In and out goes the tiny belly. It's the way human beings were meant to breathe--by using their diaphragms, the primary muscle of respiration. Now notice your own rigid respiratory pattern the next time you get called into the boss's office,or arrive at an appointment with your tax agent, or lie in bed at night before sleep. One thing Eastern and Western medical practitioners agree upon: Employing the diaphragmatic breathing technique enriches the body's oxygen supply by as much as 600 percent.

Things You'll Need

  • Comfortable clothes
  • Blanket prop under your chest if needed for comfort

Learning to Breathe Diaphramatically

  • Lie on your abdomen--this will best is the most effective way to feel the difference between the usual method of breathing and employing the diaphragm. Use a blanket propped under your chest if needed for comfort.

  • Feel and visualize the diaphragm descending as you exhale, and notice your abdomen expanding gently against the floor.

  • Exhale and feel or visualize the diaphragm relaxing and moving the breath upward toward the chest while your abdomen flattens toward your spine.

  • Close your eyes and follow your breath for a few minutes--but picture each breath cycle as BEGINNING with exhalation and ENDING with an inhalation (rather than the opposite as most of us learned to do from an early age).

Tips & Warnings

  • The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle membrane that separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity. It works by contracting in a downward movement as you exhale, and moves back up under the rib cage, allowing the abdomen to drop down toward the spine.
  • Employing this method of breathing--as babies do--could decrease heart problems, reduce stress and help us to balance our lives. But especially in Western nations, we learn at a young age to keep our tummies flat, thus restricting the movement of the diaphragm. This limits the amount of air we take into our lungs, and forces us to use only our secondary muscles of respiration.
  • Here's what well known people have to say about the importance of proper breath technique:
  • "Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure." --Oprah Winfrey
  • "Our breath plays a very important role in our life. The breath is the connecting link between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of the body and environment." --Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
  • "Breath is central to yoga because it is central to life. And yoga is life." --Krishnamacharya
  • "If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly. From my own experience and from working with patients, I have come to believe that proper breating is the master key to good health." --Dr. Andrew Weil

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  • Photo Credit baby #25 image by Adam Borkowski from Blonde woman lying on the couch image by Olena Talberg from Yoga pose image by huaxiadragon from yoga girl image by BVDC from yoga at sunset #9 image by Adam Borkowski from closed eyes girl image by Andrey Starostin from
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