Many people tend to use the chest and shoulders to breathe rather than using the diaphragm muscle, which is one of the main breathing muscles. According to Anthony Carey, owner of Function First Corrective Exercise in San Diego, chest breathing can cause tightness in the chest cavity and surrounding areas, some hunched posture and a weak core, and it also can increase stress. You can do some daily exercises to strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breathing, which also will help your athletic performance and exercise potential.
The position of this exercise places your back in its least amount of stress and will help you be more aware of breathing with your diaphragm. Lie on your back with your legs draped over a couch, a chair or an ottoman so your legs and hips are bent at 90-degree angles. Place your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. When you inhale, expand your belly like an inflating balloon. As you exhale through your nose, pull your belly deep into your spine. You can place one hand on your belly to feel the breathing. Do 10 to 20 deep breaths to start with, and do this exercise several times a day.
The transversus abdominal (TVA) draw-in also helps you to be more aware of breathing breathing with your diaphragm. This method uses gravity to assist you and maintain lower-spine stability while breathing. Start on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your body should make a box-like square, with your weight distributed evenly. As you inhale, expand your belly to the floor. When you exhale, draw your belly button into your spine, and hold the contraction for about 3 seconds. Inhale again, and repeat the drill for a total of 10 times.
Basic Qi Gong Breathing
Qi gong breathing is a technique used to develop strong diaphragm breathing and is always done in a standing position. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides. Lift your arms up in front of you slowly, as if you were holding a large beach ball, and straighten your legs as you inhale. Relax your face and hands, and keep your heels on the ground. Your palms should face you, with your fingers slightly bent. Once you have reached your maximum height with your arms, exhale, then lower your body and arms to the start position. Do this exercise 10 times.
About this Author
Nick Ng has been writing fitness-related stories since 2003, focusing on nutrition, injury prevention and exercise strategies. He received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and is a certified fitness coach from the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.