Get a relaxed diaphragm
New year rhyming with new resolutions, many of us think deeply to: subscribe in a gym, quit smoking, start a diet and sometimes even the 3 at the same time.
Just past January the pressure is already optimal. While panting we wonder how to face the end of the year…
However 2017 is the year of the fire rooster! We could start by picking a few tips from this singer animal who manages his breathing and diaphragm like a soprano.
DIAPHRAGM AND BREATHING
The diaphragm is a cupola-shaped muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. It is inserted on the internal surface of the sternum, the ribs and the lumbar spine.
It is the main muscle of breathing: it contracts during breathing in by pushing down (allowing air to enter the lungs) and relaxes during breathing out (expulsion of air).
Breathing normally involves 3 parts of the body: the abdominal region, the thoracic region and the clavicular region. However contraction of the diaphragm can be altered by various factors such as chronic stress, anxiety, cold, respiratory disorders (asthma, chronic bronchitis ...) poor posture or bad practice of a sport.
These factors can lead to a blocked diaphragm that limits abdominal’s implication in the breathing process. Thus the chest muscles compensate by pulling the upper part of the body (visible especially with smokers). This is called paradoxical breathing or reverse breathing.
This reverse breathing may lead to the following symptoms: air lack’ sentation, sensation of knot in the belly/throat, constipation, reflux, back or rib pain.
THE BENEFITS OF A GOOD DIAPHRAGM USE
A good use of the diaphragm will promote:
Intestinal transit: the diaphragm works like a plunger mechanism and its contractions massage the abdominal viscera
Venous return and lymphatic circulation
Stress reduction, emotions’ management
Sleep: thanks to breathing exercises performed at bedtime
TIPS TO MANAGE YOUR DIAPHRAGM
Even if diaphragm’s contractions are part of a reflex process, it is possible to vonluntarily modify its contractions. (Hopefully as it is contracting up to 20,000 times a day):
Be attentive to your posture
Avoid tight bras
Avoid sucking in your gut: leave your belly button in peace!
Exercise of diaphragmatic breathing aka "baby belly"
In the first realizations this exercise can be considered uncomfortable and difficult. However diaphragmatic breathing is a natural process. With time the body will get used to it.
1. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest
2. Breath slowly through the nose (another option: inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth)
3. When inhaling: start inflating your abdomen by pushing down your diaphragm (be careful not to move the upper part of the body) = ABDOMINAL BREATHING PHASE
4. Once the abdomen is inflated, keep breathing in until you reach an expansion of the thorax = THORACIC AND CLAVICULAR BREATHING PHASE (the upper part of the body moves)
5. When exhaling: the upper part of the body relaxes first then the diaphragm goes back up and the gut sucks in
6. Control your rhythm by breathing in and out at the same speed (start with 4 seconds)
Repeat the exercise every day, 5 to 10 minutes
For more information do not hesitate to contact me.
Charlotte Mernier, Osteopath