Diaphragmatic breathing: How to do it and identify road blocks

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing (or “belly breathing”) with mindfulness is an easy and effective way to decrease tension, calm the nervous system, and improve resilience to stress. It can be done in a quiet place or “on the go” during work or errands.

How to

  • Set a timer for 3-5 minutes so you can focus without worrying about time.

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable posture. Good positions: 1) Sit comfortably and upright in a chair with feet flat on the floor or 2) Lie down with a pillow under the knees.

  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen.

  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze downward.

  • Initially observe and feel your breath as your your hands rest on your belly and chest. Is your your breath shallow or deep? Do you feel your breath more in your chest or your belly?

  • After observing your breath without judgement, start to deepen your inhale and exhale. Breathe through the nose in a smooth, quiet manner. Try counting in your mind, “Inhale-2-3, Exhale-2-3.” Continue to gently direct the breath so that you feel your belly expanding or “rising” with the inhale and relaxing in or “falling” on the exhale.

Tip: Try finding your own inner dialogue for following your breath, as long as it is positive and inline with reducing stress and improving relaxation. Some examples:

  1. “Breathing in creating space, breathing out relaxing”

  2. “Breathing in 2-3, breathing out 2-3”

  3. “Inhale belly rises, exhale belly falls”

On the go

If you find yourself becoming tense at work or home, or if you have a moment waiting in line or waiting for the bus, follow this short version:

  • Place one hand on your belly

  • Take a slow, deep breath in, and then exhale slowly and completely

  • Allow your focus to be just on the breathing for just that moment

  • Repeat as needed!

Road blocks

“I’m in too much pain to relax”

There is a relationship between stress and pain. This breathing technique helps to decrease stress and therefore influence pain. It can also help reduce muscle tension.

“I can’t relax, I just can’t”

Relaxation is a skill just like any other, and it takes time to train the mind and body. Be patient and know that even the most seasoned practitioners continue to develop this skill. Also, every day is a little different!

“I’m too busy”

Relaxation assists with managing stress and improves your resilience! Taking time to practice relaxation can help improve productivity and concentration, making your time more effective, especially in those busy moments!