Pranayama: Diaphragmatic Breath

Have you ever been in a situation that inspired fear, or panic (whether slight or for serious) where your breath shortened up? You may not have even noticed at the first gasp, or holding of the breath. This is such a common response to not feeling in control of a situation, and a stress response in the body. As we continue spending time this month on our exploration on resilience, we talk today about the benefits of diaphragmatic breath.

When we engage our diaphragm we alter the shape of the thoracic cavity in three dimensions. This impact on the body goes beyond breathing, though we will focus primarily with the breath in this space. The reach of the diaphragm is INCREDIBLE… look it up 🙂 and therefore deep breathing through engaging the diaphragm intentionally can have healing properties throughout the body.

As we move the diaphragm down into the torso, expanding the room for the lungs, the lungs reach out to fill that space. So deep breathing can become easier over time, we can train our diaphragm and our lungs to expand. This deep breath, which we often call three part breath, as it expands the body three dimensionally, also soothes the nervous system by slowing down those stress responses.

This ability to consciously lock into the breath is part of that Emotion Regulation portion of our Resilience Stew. So if we notice that feeling, engage your diaphragm and draw that breath deep into the body. Engage that wonderful muscle and soothe your body, breath and nervous system today!

One way to engage the diaphragm through a breath practice:

  • Notice the breath as you begin to draw the breath deep deeper in the direction of the belly button. Allow yourself to feel the expansion from top to bottom for a few breaths.
  • After a few breaths of inviting length to the breath, take a few breath noticing an expansion in the body from side to side. See if you can feel the ribcage expand from side to side like fireplace bellows. Allow yourself to notice how the expansion in the lungs creates expansions elsewhere in the body.
  • Taking a few breaths here, move towards noticing the expansion of the body from front to back. The diaphragm allows for expansion in all areas. Notice how the heart reaches forward, and the the abdomen expands.

Try this out the next time you are feeling a stressor! Let us know how your breathwork is assisting you 🙂