Diaphragmatic Breath

Diaphragmatic Breath is distinct from what is often called 'belly breathing.' 

Belly breathing focuses simply on the movement of the belly with the breath -- expanding on the inhalation, contracting with the exhalation -- as an aid to deepening the breath. This is often taught to people who breathe primarily with the secondary muscles of the upper chest; it's easy to feel the movement of the belly with the breath, and so it is a fairly simple matter to repattern one's breathing by drawing the breath deeper -- into the belly.

Yet diaphragmatic breathing is a more precise -- and beneficial -- practice, when understood properly. Diaphragmatic breathing is 'three-dimensional,' involving all sides of the lower ribs, and not just the belly. It is done with the middle of the torso, involving a gentle expansion of the lower ribs as the diaphragm draws downward. 

Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced by placing your hands at the sides of the lower ribs. Breathe into your belly and lower ribs, expanding three-dimensionally against the gentle resistance of your hands in order to tune into and strengthen the workings of the diaphragm. Your belly, though it does expand at first with the breath (signaling the downward movement of the diaphragm that draws in the breath) it should not distend above the ribs on the inhalation.

Though in diaphragmatic breath the belly does move out at first with the inhalation as it does with belly breathing, the two are not the same. With diaphragmatic breathing, you'll notice that as the breath continues to expand with the movement of the ribs and diaphragm, the lower belly tones inward and even draws slightly upward, even as the diaphragm remains fully expanded. Consciously include the expansion of the lower ribs with your breath; this keeps the belly and solar plexus toned properly, rather than distended.

While belly breathing can sometimes stir up deeply held emotions -- and has its usefulness for that reason -- diaphragmatic breathing brings calmness and tranquility and soothes troubled emotions. Diaphragmatic breathing brings the breath in deep while massaging the heart and toning and nourishing your internal organs.

Try practicing diaphragmatic breathing in times of stress and anxiety, as well as at the beginning of every pranayama practice!