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Retraining the Diaphragm to Enhance Your Health!

Believe it or not, but the way you breathe can impact your health! And vice versa.  The diaphragm is a muscle that sits under the lungs between the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity.  As with any muscle in the body it can get tight or spastic or out of shape.  What’s more, is the connective tissue surrounding the diaphragm connects it to so many different parts of the body, thus implicating it in any type of pain or dysregulation in the body.

Luckily, we can affect the health of the diaphragm and its movement through breathing exercises. practicing mindful breathing every day does more than just calm you down for a few minutes. It retrains and exercises the diaphragm thus helping to relax and reprogram many other muscles and tissues they connect with all over your body.  

 

Diaphragmatic breathing

 

How does diaphragmatic breathing (also called deep breathing or a 3 part breath) detoxify and restore our bodies?

Deep breathing stimulates the lymph nodes and assists lymph drainage (think of the lymphatic system like the sewage system of the body, where debris and toxins are collected and then eliminated).  In fact, it increases the rate of elimination as much as 15 times!

When the diaphragm moves up and down in deep breathing, it stimulates the vagus nerve, which houses many of the parasympathetic nervous systems’ fibers.  This is important because the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response.  When we are able to digest we absorb more nutrients to build and protect our bodies and when we can rest, our bodies are given a chance to repair. -Deep breathing assists the circulatory system, improving blood circulation, another major channel of elimination and detoxification.

 

So, how do we practice diaphragmatic breathing?

I found it helpful when I was first learning to lie on my back and place one hand on my lower belly and one hand on my ribcage. Begin by slowing down the breath and relaxing the mind, using the nostrils to breath. Then take an inhale sending the breath down into the lower belly, feeling the hand rising up, keep inhaling and now fill the ribcage with air, feeling the sides of the ribs expand, and finally feel the top of the lungs, the upper chest fill with air. Exhale, reversing the flow.  So, upper chest empties, then side ribs, then lower belly. If it’s helpful, imagine filling a balloon. Inhale, sending breath down to the bottom of the balloon, filling the lower belly, then the side ribs and up to the top, a full balloon. Exhale, top of the balloon, chest deflates, then side ribs contract and finally lower belly, almost squeezes the last of the air out. You can begin with a 4 second inhale count and a 4 second exhale count and as your lung capacity increases you can gradually lengthen each, keeping the length of the inhale the same as the exhale.

Who Can Benefit from breathing exercises?

This practice is appropriate for anyone experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, pain, menstrual difficulties, urinary frequency and urgency, sleep trouble, and really anything!  I encourage all my patients to incorporate mindful breathing – breathing without doing anything else for a few moments – as part of their home work.  They love knowing this simple practice can help them, and it’s a life skill worth practicing!
If you are suffering from a condition that interferes with the life you want to be living, please call 630-335-1069 to schedule a free consultation!
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