“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” ~ Stephen R. Covey
What is Diaphragm Breathing?
Diaphragm breathing is a skill that we all are born with.
As babies, we breathe through our stomachs. If you closely watch an infant lying down, you can see their tiny stomach moving slowly.
It’s not until the stress of life kicks in that we move from being healthy, diaphragm breathing oxygen machines to chest breathing, anxious, overwhelmed busy-bodies.
Diaphragm breathing is using your diaphragm (rather than your chest) to move oxygen in and out of your lungs.
The lower third of your lungs move oxygen from your lungs to your brain the most efficiently. You simply do not get adequate oxygen when you breathe through your chest.
Though diaphragm breathing is an excellent habit to develop, there are times when it is less efficient.
When You Should NOT do Diaphragm Breathing
There are certain instances throughout the day when we need quick access to oxygen.
Diaphragmatic breathing during these events would be very difficult or completely impractical.
It would be difficult to form a comprehensible sentence while also focusing on breathing through your diaphragm.
Practicing diaphragm breathing during an intense workout would be impractical (potentially even harmful).
You simply cannot effectively practice breathing while consuming food or drink. You’d most likely choke!
In each of these instances, diaphragm breathing is not practical or optimal for best performance.
During a workout, your heart rate elevates, blood is pumping, and your body is moving around. Trying to take in air at a slow pace could cause fatigue or dizziness - not to mention poor exercise performance.
However, implementing a breathing practice around these can be highly beneficial.
When You SHOULD Practice Diaphragm Breathing
Diaphragm breathing is essential to optimal health and performance. The simple act of flooding your brain with oxygen and blood increases attention, energy levels, memory, and overall brain performance.
The practice can be helpful in many situations. These can include:
- Waking up in the morning
- Before a big presentation at work
- After an intense workout
- After a stressful day at the office
- When you feel uneasy, upset, or exhausted
- After eating a big meal
- While sitting on the couch watching TV
- Before lying down for bed
And many, many more!
Different paces and styles of diaphragm breathing can produce different results.
If you’re looking for a nice energy boost in the morning, try a long inhale with a short exhale. If you’re interested in winding down at the end of a long day, shorten the inhale and extend the exhale or practice box breathing.
You can alter the practice based on the situation. There is no one “right” way or time to do it. It comes down to what works best for you.
If you’ve got an important meeting, take a few deep breaths through your diaphragm before walking into the room. If you have extra time, sit and focus on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.
Adjust the breathing practice to fit your lifestyle.
To summarize, diaphragm breathing is an excellent habit to improve your health and optimize your performance.
To get the most out of practice, find ways to plug it in throughout the day to cause a calm, focused, energized approach to everything you do!