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Diaphragmatic or Belly Breathing

Diaphragmatic or Belly Breathing

Before you can take a deep breath “in”, you have to give one away “out”. Because, when you’ve been breathing in a short, shallow manner (from your chest), if you try & take a deep inhale, you just can’t do it. All you can do is take a more labored, shallow breath from your chest. That will give you all the air you need, but it won’t feel “good”.
Breathe very shallowly a few times, and then try to take a deep breath. When you breathe in this shallow manner, you get all the air you need to live, but you can also get other symptoms which contribute to a panic attack.

You get chest pain or heaviness, because you’ve tightened the muscles of your chest to an uncomfortable degree. (The chest pain people feel in a panic attack isn’t from the heart; it’s from the muscles of the chest). You feel lightheaded or dizzy, because shallow breathing can produce the same sensations as hyperventilation. & you also get a more rapid heartbeat, & maybe numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, lips, etc., as well. All can happen from breathing short & shallow.

“Deep breathing” is also known as “diaphragmatic breathing”, or “belly breathing”.

Put one hand just above your belt line and the other hand on your chest, right over the breastbone. You can use your hands as a guide to let you know if it’s your stomach OR your chest or both moving. Your hands will tell you what part of your body, & what muscles, you’re using to breathe.

Open your mouth & sigh, as if someone had just told you something annoying. As you do, let your shoulders & the muscles of your upper body relax down with the exhalation. The point of the sigh is not to completely empty your lungs – “it’s to relax the muscles of your upper body”.

Hold that position for a few seconds.

Close your mouth & inhale SLOWLY through your nose by pushing your stomach out. The movement of your stomach breathing in this way pulls in more air than breathing from the chest.  When you’ve inhaled as much air as you can “comfortably” (without throwing your upper body/chest into it), just stop. You’re finished with that inhale. (I do the “inhale” for a slow 3 count “in”.. 1… 2… 3… and that’s comfortable for me.

Everyone counts at different speeds & has different sized lungs so; you have to be the judge of what “count” in is comfortable for YOU).

Let your hands be your guide to let you know if you’re moving your “chest” OR your “stomach” to breathe. A “deep” breath means to breathe “slow into your stomach” & not into your chest”.

Your hands will tell you if you’re doing this correctly or not. Where is the “muscular movement” of the breathing? You want it to occur at your stomach. Your upper body should be relatively still. If you feel movement in your chest, or notice your head & shoulders moving upwards, start over again & practice getting the motion down to your stomach.

Pause briefly for whatever time feels comfortable to you. But, be aware that when you breathe this way, you are taking larger breaths than you’re used to. For this reason, it’s necessary to breathe more “slowly” than you’re used to. If you breathe into your stomach at the same rate you use with your small, shallow breaths into your chest, you will probably feel a little lightheaded from over breathing. It’s not harmful. If that happens, it’s a signal to slow down your breathing.

Ok, now the “exhale”……..

Open your mouth. Exhale through your “mouth” by pulling your stomach in…. The “exhale” should be a little longer out than the inhale in. I do a slow 3 count breathing “in” and a slow “”4″” count breathing “out”.
Hold it in for a second or 2 & repeat the slow “inhale” explained at the top then the “exhale” as explained above and that’s how you do it!

Once you get it right you’ll know if you are because your hand on your chest should not be moving much at all or none when your stomach pushes in & out as you take the breaths. Stomach breathing = Deep breathing. Chest breathing = shallow breathing.

Some people confuse “DEEP” breathing with regular chest breathing (breathing in, “blowing up your chest” as far as it will go) but that type of breathing into the chest is called “fast shallow breathing” & can cause you to feel sensations of hyperventilating (which makes us feel dizzy, lightheaded, numbness, tingling, etc.)

Happy breathing!

To Your Health,

~ Dr. Kathleen Sherwood


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