Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Skill to Improve Your Performance

Knowing how to take a full, deep breath will benefit you throughout your life in all areas of your life. A full breath cycle spreads oxygen throughout the body, gets rid of waste gasses like carbon dioxide, and stimulates the spine and internal organs. Additionally, deep breathing is an essential part of maximizing any form of exercise.

Diaphragmatic deep breathing is the first step to learning to breathe well. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that sits below the lungs, horizontally bisecting the trunk of the body. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and flattens downward allowing the lungs to expand to draw in air. Exhaling allows the diaphragm to return to its original shape, forcing air out of the lungs.

In Pilates, the dynamic of full breathing -- big inhales and exhales – is used to initiate and power the exercises. Therefore, most Pilates exercises are taught with breathing patterns. Proper diaphragmatic breathing is efficient, energizing and relaxing. Not only does it help with maximizing exercise, it also is a fantastic technique for stress reduction.

Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing:
  1. Begin lying on your back with knees bent. Place one hand resting lightly on your lower abdomen to feel your breath move your body.
  2. Relax and depress your shoulders.
  3. Relax your spine in neutral position, the natural curves of the spine should be present.
  4. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Be aware of the air flowing into your upper chest and down your spine. You should feel your sides and lower ribs expand as well as your upper, mid-and lower back. Allow the deep inhale to push your abdomen out a little bit.
  5. As you inhale, be sure to keep the shoulders relaxed and depressed.
  6. Begin to exhale by slowly pushing breath out in the reverse order that you breathed it in. Contract your lower abs, then mid and upper abs. Allow your ribs to pull in, and last, let your chest to drop as you fully expel all the air.
  7. Repeat this exercise a few times until each step flows smoothly into the next.

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