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Abdominal Breathing and Associated Breathing Exercises

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Sep 24, 2020

   6 min     



Breathing is one of the most natural things that we do. It is one of the most critical functions performed by our body. It is what keeps us alive. We have a certain amount of control over how we breathe. This very control helps us use breathing as a way to convey our emotional state, such as when we are sighing in despair, panting with exhaustion, holding our breath while afraid, etc. 

Our body breathes in two different ways, i.e. chest breathing and abdominal breathing.

Chest breathing is a type of breathing that can be identified by the upward and outward movement of the chest. We observe this form of breathing when we perform vigorous exercise, or when we are in a stressful situation. Using chest breathing can make us feel like we are under stress due to it making our body tense. The vigorous movement of upper chest muscles increases the feeling of anxiety.

Abdominal breathing involves actively using the diaphragm; a dome-shaped muscle that separates our chest from the abdomen. This muscle tightens when we breathe in, and flattens and moves down, thus sucking air inside the lungs. When the diaphragm moves downwards, it pushes all of the contents in the abdomen downwards, thus forcing the abdominal wall outward. The diaphragm relaxes, letting us breathe out, thus pushing the air out and flattening our abdominal wall.

We shall understand more about abdominal breathing in this article.

Abdominal Breathing

Diaphragmatic breath is also called abdominal breathing or belly breathing. This form of breathing will help strengthen your diaphragm. 

This form of breathing has a lot of benefits. A lot of meditation and relaxation techniques require controlling your abdominal breathing. Practising abdominal breathing helps you lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, as well as help regulate other body processes.

Abdominal breathing has two significant effects on our body.

  • This form of breathing is relaxing, as opposed to the chest breathing which increases our ‘fight or flight’ response to stress

  • . This form of breathing usually aids in regenerative processes such as digestion, sleeping, etc. 

This form of breathing is ideal because unlike chest breathing it doesn't elicit unpleasant responses such as dizziness, faintness, headache, visual disturbance, tingling, chest pain, palpitations, sighing, yawning and excessive sniffing, and also causing anxiety. Instead, it efficiently lets enough air into our lungs. It

Benefits of Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is very beneficial to our body. This form of breathing is the main principle behind many practices, one of them being meditation. And we all know how meditation is effective against a wide range of conditions from irritable bowel syndrome to depression and anxiety.

Common benefits of abdominal breathing include;

  • It is effective in lowering your heart rate, blood pressure

  • It reduces the 'wear and tear in the muscles and chances of injuring them

  • Improves the body’s ability to tolerate physical stress such as intense

  • It enhances the body’s core muscle stability

  • Slowed breathing rate results in less expended energy, which helps you relax

  • The relaxed state also helps reduce the harmful effects of cortisol (stress hormone)

  • Abdominal breathing is effective against certain symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • It is also effective in dealing with a panic attack

Abdominal breathing and Reduced Stress

As we have mentioned several times, abdominal breathing is ideal when one needs to deal with immense stress. Immense amounts of stress can have harmful effects on your immune system, leading to numerous health disorders. In addition to that, dealing with daily stress due to something as minor as traffic, or similar such everyday concerns may increase the chances of developing anxiety disorder or depression.

All of this can be avoided if you can work in some breathing exercises into your routine. These exercises may help counteract the adverse effects of stress.

Abdominal Breathing and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

A person with COPD will not have as effective diaphragm as that of a healthy person. In doing these abdominal breathing exercises, you will be able to strengthen your diaphragm, resulting in improved breathing.

Our lungs expand when we inhale and contract when we exhale. A person with COPD, or similar respiratory conditions, has reduced elasticity in their lungs, because of which these organs won’t contract as much on exhalation. This will result in a buildup of air in the lungs, leaving no space for the diaphragm to contract while inhaling. When your diaphragm doesn’t work effectively, the body has to make use of other parts such as your neck, back, and chest muscles to help you breathe. All of this will result in reduced intake of oxygen.

Abdominal breathing exercises will help release the built-up air in the lungs, increasing the amount of oxygen inhaled and effectively strengthening the diaphragm.

How to Perform Abdominal Breathing

There are various ways to perform abdominal breathing exercises. Here, we will explain the most basic way to perform diaphragmatic breathing. The simplest way to do it is to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

A basic abdominal breathing exercise involves the following steps.

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You may use a bed, the floor or any comfortable flat surface,

  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed.

  3. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

  4. Inhale through your nose for two seconds. You will notice your abdomen expanding as you feel the air move through your nostril. Try keeping your chest relatively still.

  5. Now pucker your lips and gently exhale for two seconds. As you do it gently press on your stomach.

  6. Repeat the above steps several times

There are several other ways of performing breathing exercises such as Rib-Stretch breathing, numbered breathing, etc.

Rib-Stretched breathing is done standing up straight with an arched back. It involves taking a deep breath in (until you can't inhale anymore), holding it in for approximately 10 seconds and then slowly exhaling. 

Numbered breathing is also done standing up. Here, you inhale until you can’t take in any more air and exhale until you feel all air has been removed from the lungs. With each breath you will picture a number, starting from ‘1.’You can go on up to ‘8’ or more. This method helps you gain control over your breathing patterns.

Risks of Abdominal Breathing

Although abdominal breathing is effective against certain medical conditions, it cannot do much on its own. It should always be coupled with other additional forms of treatment. It is not always helpful in dealing with anxiety disorders or similar such health conditions.

Certain anxiety disorders can last for a long time, and if breathing exercises don't help curb your anxiety, then it will make your condition worse.

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Tags:  Stress relief ,Breathing ,Meditation,stress relief, breathing, abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, breathing exercise, chest breathing

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