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For those of you who have practiced yoga, you’ll know that there are many ways of breathing.  I want to focus on 2 that are fundamentally different in their affect on your physiology.


The first is common, but unnatural to stay in for long periods of time, which is troubling because that is the type many people find themselves in.  It is called chest breathing, and to no surprise, it is performed by breathing into your chest.  It is characterized by short or shallow breaths performed by the intercostal muscles (muscles on the ribs) that cause the chest to rise.  This is the fastest way to breathe, the way you would want to breathe if you were under attack (stress).  This type of breathing triggers the sympathetic nervous system what is crucial in fight or flight.  However, humans are only designed to be in a stressful state for short periods, really only long enough to get out of the stressful situation (change our environment to a more hospitable one).  Nowadays we find ourselves in chronic stress with deadlines to meet, family’s to run, children to constantly monitor and very little community support nor movement to deal with that stress.


That is why I want to talk to you about diaphragmatic breathing.  This is a completely different way to get oxygen to your cells from a physiological standpoint.  This breathing is deep; it causes your belly to push out rather than your chest to rise up.  This breath is accomplished primarily by the contraction of your diaphragm, a muscular umbrella at the bottom of your ribcage that pulls air in and gently massages your internal organs in a rhythmic way.  This is the way children breath (picture a toddler breathing, their breath seems to go all the way into their belly.  This is the way you breath you are supposed to breath pretty much all of the time.  This triggers the parasympathetic nervous system for rest and repair.  Plus it feels great; you can actually feel your stress decrease after just a few deep breaths!

How to:

1.  Assume Proper Posture / Stand (or sit up) straight & drop your shoulders back and down.  (Lift your heart to 45 degrees)

2.  Inhale slowly through your nose trying to get the air down as far as possible into your belly.  (Your belly will push out, that is normal).

3.  Pause for a second or less.

4. Exhale slowly through nose (2 x longer than inhalation).

5.  Repeat 5-10 times

6.  Do this every hour and feel the stress fall away.

Practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5-10 breaths before you lie down to sleep and before you eat.  These activities require a predominantly parasympathetic nervous system activity.

Breathe 4 Health!

Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP

For you visual or auditory learners check out this video on diaphragmatic breath!