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What’s Going on in There? A Behind-the-scenes Look at Diaphragmatic Breathing

If you’ve read The What, Why, When, Where and How of Diaphragmatic Breathing, you know that the diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle, situated beneath the lungs, that separates the chest cavity—where the heart and lungs reside—from the abdominal cavity—where the stomach, liver, intestines, and other organs reside (see Figure 1).

Diaphram - KAPIT, WYNN; ELSON, LAWRENCE M., THE ANATOMY COLORING BOOK, 3rd, ©2002. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.
Figure 1

KAPIT, WYNN; ELSON, LAWRENCE M., THE ANATOMY COLORING BOOK, 3rd, ©2002. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

For those of you who are wondering, it is the act of inhaling slowly and lowly that activates the diaphragm. When the diaphragm is activated, it moves from its upright or dome-shaped position downward. As the diaphragm descends, it places pressure on the organs in the abdominal cavity, which, in turn, causes the abdomen to move outward. When we exhale, the diaphragm ascends, releasing pressure from the abdominal organs, and allowing the abdomen to move back inward.

Some of you may have heard the expression “breathe into the belly;” please know that this is just a figure of speech, as literally breathing into the belly is impossible. Please see Figure 2 for a depiction of the diaphragm during inspiration (inhaling) and expiration (exhaling).

Figure 2

KAPIT, WYNN; ELSON, LAWRENCE M., THE ANATOMY COLORING BOOK, 3rd, ©2002. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.

Incidentally, as you may notice in Figure 2, the chest also moves outward as you inhale and inward as you exhale; this is due to the fact that the lungs expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. When done properly, the chest will move to a lesser degree than the abdomen.

The following excerpt, from Dr. Bollé’s relaxation CD, “Warm Regards,” focuses on diaphragmatic breathing:

Click here to purchase Dr. Bollé’s CD, “Warm Regards.”

Happy breathing!