Coping Skill – The Diaphragmatic Perfect Breath

“Inhale the present, exhale the nonsense, Breathe in courage, exhale fear…… Repeat.



For millennia, yogis and sages from Eastern cultures have understood the importance of diaphragmatic breathing. Since the 1970s, the trailblazing efforts of mind-body thought leaders such as Herbert Benson and Jon Kabat-Zinn have popularized the paramount importance of deep breathing as a central component of maintaining a healthy physiological balance (homeostasis) within your autonomic nervous system, which is widely accepted by “Western medicine” practitioners today.


The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle for breathing. It’s a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing helps you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing to:

Strengthen the diaphragm.

Decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate.

Decrease oxygen demand.

Use less effort and energy to breathe.

During diaphragmatic breathing, you consciously use your diaphragm to take deep breaths. When you breathe normally, you don’t use your lungs to their full capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing allows you to use your lungs at 100% capacity to increase lung efficiency.

What are other names for diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as:

Abdominal breathing.

Belly breathing.

Do certain conditions make it harder for me to use my diaphragm?

Conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may prevent the diaphragm from working effectively.

Your lungs rise and fall naturally, but when you have COPD, air often becomes trapped in your lungs. This pushes down on your diaphragm. Your neck and chest muscles must then assume an increased share of the work of breathing. Conditions like COPD can leave your diaphragm weakened and flattened, causing it to work less efficiently.

What are the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing offers several benefits to your body including:

Helping you relax.

Improving muscle function during exercises and preventing strain.

Increasing how much oxygen is in your blood.

Making it easier for your body to release gas waste from your lungs.

Reducing blood pressure.

Reducing heart rate.

What conditions does diaphragmatic breathing help improve?

Diaphragmatic breathing can help several conditions that cause symptoms that affect how you breathe including:





Diaphragmatic breathing can help treat certain conditions, but it shouldn’t be the only treatment. You can use this technique along with other treatments recommended by your healthcare provider.



How do I do diaphragmatic breathing exercises?

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down.

Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs.

Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out, causing your hand to rise. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale through pursed lips (see “Pursed Lip Breathing Technique”). The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.

Diaphragmatic breathing technique (sitting)

As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair.

To perform this exercise while sitting in a chair:

Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.

Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves back in, as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Do I need to practice diaphragmatic breathing?

Yes, practicing diaphragmatic breathing makes it easier. You may notice it takes an increased effort to use your diaphragm correctly. At first, you’ll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice diaphragmatic breathing will become automatic.

How often should I practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises?

At first, practice this exercise for five to 10 minutes about three to four times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen.

As with learning anything new, the first few times you practice diaphragmatic breathing, it may be difficult. Take a couple of minutes each day to practice this new skill, which offers many benefits to your overall health and can help you relax.

If you have a condition like COPD, asthma or anxiety, talk to your Doctor about diaphragmatic breathing to see if it’s right for you.

In 2016, another study reported that slow abdominal breathing improved the autonomic sympathovagal modulation (which minimizes the “fight-or-flight” response) and was highly effective at reducing the stress-related cardiovascular response in prehypertensive “stressed out” college students.

The last study I’m going to reference in this post examines the flip side of having lower heart rate variability as observed in veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2015, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System reported that reduced HRV may be a contributing risk factor for PTSD. These findings were reported in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. In this study, the researchers found that U.S. Marines with lower HRV prior to deployment displayed higher vulnerability to PTSD after they had returned. The good news is that anyone with PTSD can use holistic vagal maneuvers and/or vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) devices to improve his or her Heart Rate.







Other Compatible Coping Skills

How many stars would you award this coping skill?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *