How to Breathe From the Diaphragm in Six Easy Steps
Diaphragmatic Breathing Or The Belly Breath
How to Breathe From Your Diaphragm
Look at the picture above. You see me placing my hand on the student's abdominal area. This is the location of the area that you want to expand at exactly the moment you inhale. The lower rib cage will also automatically inflate as does the back area.
Your diaphragm is located right in the center of your body and separates the abdomen from the chest (thorax). It is the primary organ used for breathing. When you inhale the diaphragm expands causing the ribcage to inflate. With the ribcage inflated the lungs expand to hold more air.
It is much easier and faster to learn how to use the Diaphragm by laying flat on the floor. After this new way of breathing becomes easy to do with the floor position, you may stand and practice. If you still find it difficult in a standing position, go back to the floor position and keep practicing until inflating around the waistline and ribcage become automatic.
Let's get started and learn how to breathe from the diaphragm. Be patient - it takes time to learn this method. The health rewards are well worth it.
Locating the Diaphragmatic Muscle for Better Breath Control
Using The Diaphragm With This Easy Step-By-Step Lesson
- Lie down comfortably on your back on your bed or on a mat or carpeted floor. Position yourself with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent (pointing upward). Simply follow your breathing for a minute or two with your attention. See if you can sense which parts of your body your breath touches.
- Put your hands (one on top of the other) on your belly, with the center of your lower hand touching your navel. Watch how your breathing responds. You may notice that your belly wants to expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Let this happen, but don’t try to force it. Dogs, cats, and babies do this naturally and so do you as you drift off to sleep. I often place a "yellow pages" book on the belly in place of the hands. This adds weight and aids in a more pronounced feeling as you inhale.
- With the weight of the book resting on your belly, lift the book as you inhale and hold it for about 5 seconds. Then lower the book slowly as you exhale all of your air. Repeat, 5 or 6 times, breathing through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Repeat this exercise, but this time replace just holding the book for 5 seconds with singing the numbers, 12345678910. Lower the book as you sing, expelling your air slowly.
- Repeat the above exercise and increase singing the numbers to 15.
- Repeat again, singing to 20 or as far as you can. DO NOT STRAIN.
- Going through the same physical movements, sing a simple song such as "Happy Birthday To You" or "Amazing Grace".
- When you need to take a breath (at the end of each phrase), make certain you are inhaling from the belly.
When the above exercises feel easy and more natural as you perform them, repeat all of the above steps in a standing position. This is more challenging, so do not rush it.
Easy Floor Exercise To Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing
How's Your Breathing?
Are you breathing correctly? (You say to yourself, “what kind of question is that?”) Of course, I am breathing right (and you inhale, then exhale just like you have done your entire life.) Well, while this type of breathing has obviously kept you alive...there is a better, healthier way to breathe.
Singers, actors and public speakers are familiar with this better way of breathing as it is the foundation of their success. I am going to teach you how to breathe by using the diaphragmatic muscle, your breathing muscle. Once you incorporate this new way of inhaling and exhaling, you will enjoy better health, a more stress-free life, a higher level of spirituality, glowing skin and an improved singing, and speaking voice.
Interesting Facts About Breathing You Don't Know
- The average person breathes 12-16 beats per minute, 720-960 beats per hour or 17,280-23,040 per day.
- The air we breathe in a lifetime equals the volume of two football fields, seventeen stories high!
- When we breathe through the mouth, over time the jaw can shrink causing crooked teeth.
- Breathing through the mouth is the biggest reason children develop a lisp when they talk.
- Because we can’t see air, we tend to forget it is even there. Air is something we just don’t think about. We also don’t really think about breathing air into our bodies, unless we practice yoga, voice and such. Perhaps you have choked at one time or another, which certainly makes you stop and think about having enough air.
- As most of us have learned in school (and forgotten), one fifth of the air we breathe is made up of oxygen (21%), and the rest is nitrogen (78%) in addition to small amounts of *argon, carbon dioxide, and some other gases and water vapor (1%).
- Every day we breathe about 35 pounds of air! I think that is pretty amazing.
- If the lungs were open flat they would cover the size of a tennis court.
* Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere. It's 23.7 times as abundant as carbon dioxide and 500 times as abundant then neon. Use the link provided in resources below to learn more about Argon.
A Quick Demonstration To Help You With Diaphragmatic Breathing
Generate More Energy By Breathing Deeply
Diaphragmatic breathing is the powerhouse for our voice. This type of breathing, when used properly, helps us to control the very sound of our voice. You may be surprised to learn that when we sing-off-key, or out-of-tune, it is often because we lack the amount of air needed to cushion our tone. When this happens, we end up singing flat.
It is my belief that breathing is also the primary avenue to a higher consciousness and the more we can be aware, the more conscious we are. The ability to concentrate on our breathing will assure us that as we sing we have more control over our sound.
The simple act of breathing starts a chain reaction of life-giving energy flowing through our body and mind. The breathing techniques you learn here can alter your mood, control pain, and even give us the courage to face daily challenges and obstacles.
Begin to explore just how this fantastic body of ours can learn the art of diaphragmatic breathing, or, the belly breath.
Your diaphragm is a large dome-shaped, flat sheet of muscle, shaped like a parachute, just below your rib cage and above your abdomen (your belly). By using your diaphragm when you breathe, you help your lungs expand more fully so they take in more air with less effort.
During normal breathing, the diaphragm naturally flattens, drawing air in and out of the lungs. During singing, the diaphragm flattens more deeply than during regular breathing.
The singer must learn to preserve the extra amount of air in the lungs to support the small amount of air that's released across the vocal folds (bands).
Picture a balloon. As you fill the balloon with air it expands. When the air is released the balloon will collapse. This is how the diaphragmatic muscle works.
Expansion Occurs In The Back During Diaphragmatic Breathing
Excellent Tip To Help To Feel Back Expansion During Inhalation
The ribcage and back also expand when the diaphragmatic muscle is used, along with the abdominal area. The back area is the most difficult to feel during inhalation. But, I have a great tip for you which will help you instantly feel expansion in this area. Here's all you have to do:
- Sit on a bench or hard chair. (A soft surface will interfere with keeping the spine straight.)
- Bending from the waist, place both forearms on the thighs as pictured above.
- Allow the neck to hang freely.
- Take a deep breath from the belly (diaphragm) and feel the expansion in the back area.
Don't be alarmed if you can't feel back expansion while in a standing position. Expansion occurs whether you notice it or not.
Increasing Your Vocal Range
When your diaphragmatic breathing becomes automatic, you are then able to hold notes longer and increase your vocal range.
To sing higher, your body needs more breath pressure. The only way to increase this pressure is to use the belly breath or diaphragmatic breathing. It takes more air to sing higher than it does to sing lower.
As you practice singing from low to high do not increase your volume. Singing louder will not help you to reach those high notes. You are at risk of damaging your vocal cords when you pump up your volume.
Keep the Chest and Shoulders Still Upon Respiration
Belly Breathing For Relaxation
Sometimes, we only have a minute or two to bring ourselves from a stressful feeling to one of relaxation and peace. Deep breathing ( Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing) increases lung capacity and absorption of oxygen by the body. Even if we only take one or two quick deep breaths, it can make a significant difference in helping to relax during a stressful time.
Belly breathing can take us from a state of confusion to clarity. To help reduce pain, deep breathing through the pain can be a distraction from the discomfort, especially when adding visualization techniques.
Using your rib cage and abdominal area upon inhalation helps to boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes aging and fuels every cell in your body.
Changing your breathing immediately affects the mind, body, and soul.
Begin now to make an important lifestyle change. Practice, practice...then practice some more.
Follow your bliss~
Practice the Belly Breath as You Listen to This Relaxing Music
Mastering diaphragmatic breathing will put you in direct contact with your body as you discover how your body moves while breathing. For the singer, managing the air can drastically change the sound of the singing voice.
When you don't use a consistent flow of air, you have to squeeze in your throat which creates a tighter sound. This tight sound interferes with the beautification of tone. Even though breathing is natural (you don't think about it), when you sing, it is necessary to train your body to breathe in a certain way so that you breathe efficiently throughout the entire song.
Unless you breathe properly, you risk running out of air right in the middle of a word. And you want the freedom of holding a note for as long as you need to.
Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation for confident speaking and singing. To learn this principle, practice the step-by-step exercises provided in this article. Practice several times a day for as long as it takes for you to learn. It must become entirely automatic. This means that for some, a few weeks will be all that is needed but for others, it may take several months.
A great benefit for learning this new way of breathing is how we are able to get more blood flow and oxygen to our brain. This all adds up to living a healthier and more productive life.
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Questions & Answers
I have heard that belly breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are not the same and do not have the same benefits. What is your opinion?
Both belly breathing and diaphragmatic breathing engage the diaphragmatic muscle. "Belly Breath" is a reference to diaphragmatic breathing and is used to help people understand where the breath is initiated as opposed to the chest area. Therefore, they are one and the same.Helpful 2
while in a sleeping position, my belly expands more than while standing. what should I do to expand my belly the same amount while standing?
Continue practicing in a sleeping position until your body has "memorized" the belly breath. It's normal to feel less expansion while standing as the back area expands when standing.Helpful 4
Will I be able to tell the difference in my voice between breathing from the diaphragm and anywhere else?
Absolutely! It's the proper place for breathing. Your singing voice "rides" on air. Chest breathing won't do the job. Only diaphragmatic breathing supplies us with enough air to control singing. Your voice will sound more stable and allow you to sing freely. This type of breathing should also replace your regular breathing. There are many health benefits associated with breathing from the belly.
© 2011 Audrey Hunt