Take a minute to think of a skill that is essential to life and performed daily. Done? Now list all those physical or mental abilities we perfect throughout our lives - eating, walking, speaking, reading, writing, driving while texting and surfing Facebook. Why wasn't breathing at the top of the list? Can you think of a skill more necessary to life that is so under practiced? Taking 5 minutes a day to practice something free-that you're going to do anyway, which could save your life and will lead to healthier functioning-just sounds like a good time investment.
Deep, belly or diaphragmatic breathing involves using the diaphragm muscle (located under the lungs, separating the chest & stomach cavities of the body) to pull down on the lungs for greater air capacity and muscular activation with each breath. This type of breathing is easily recognizable by the visible expansion of the stomach rather than the chest with each inhalation. Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve: lung function (for those with pulmonary disease, COPD), physical reposes to stress (hyperventilation, hormone levels, blood pressure), and physical functioning (cardiovascular endurance, posture). With a name like diaphragmatic you would think that it's hard to do, but lay on down and we'll get you started:
Diaphragmatic breathing coupled with some simple counting drills can turn these breathing exercises into the stress relieving technique used midday to finish the work load or mental reset used at night to shut down and sleep tight. Count using either even (4in/2hold/4out, 6in/4hold/8out) or odd (3in/1hold/5out, 5in/3hold/7out) breathing cycles until you find the one that best fits your current pulmonary abilities. Start your breathing practice at 5 minutes a day and increase your time monthly by 5 minutes until you've reached 30+ minutes per session. Remember that breathing is the first and last thing we do in life, so you should spend some time getting it right.
Stay Active, Stay Strong,
James F. Thomas,
M.S., B.A., ACSM EP-C, SFGII, BLS