Diaphragmic Breathing

May 2, 2022

In last month’s blog post, I reviewed how to breathe in a yoga class. Today, I wanted to spend some time highlighting a specific and very important breath technique that is not necessarily meant to be used throughout a class. It’s a separate practice that you would do seated or lying down on its own, sometimes at the beginning or end of a yoga class. It’s a great technique to incorporate into the middle of your day, especially during a stressful workday. These types of specific breath techniques are called Pranayama in the Yoga tradition, and Pranayama is an important part of Yoga, alongside Asana, the physical practice of yoga (poses we create with our bodies). How do you perform Diaphragmatic breathing and why is it important? 



–       Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is simply breathing all the way into your belly, and not only into your chest. It is a form of deep breathing that allows oxygen to penetrate the body. If you take a moment to notice your breath, you’ll see that often, especially when we are stressed, we breathe shallowly, only into our chests. This unfortunately is not bringing an optimal amount of oxygen to so many cells in the body, not allowing them to refresh! Interestingly, if you watch a baby breathe, you can actually watch their belly rise and fall as they breathe (check out my Instagram @yogimamakasia to see my 6-month-old breathing this way). Unfortunately, as we get older and more stressed in life, we transition to breathing only in our chest.



–       When you practice diaphragmatic breathing, you can place both hands on your belly, or simply one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and notice the movement. Close your eyes while you practice and notice a deep sense of relaxation that comes with this practice. If you ever get lightheaded, please back off. 



–    Take time during your day to practice Mindfulness of breath. Once you start practicing, you’ll start noticing how your breath changes based on your mood that day, or your stress levels. When you notice yourself breathing shallowly only into your chest, perhaps it’s time for a break. 



–       The Diaphragm is a muscle that sits just below the rib cage and its job is to pull air into your lungs. Unless we take full deep breaths, we are not exercising this important muscle! 





–       Always breathe in and out through your nose when you can, not only during Pranayama but throughout your day. Breathing through the nose is by far the most efficient way to breathe, as your nose not only purifies the area before it enters the body, but it also humidifies it. If you sleep breathing through your nose, you will notice a very dry mouth in the morning, so some people have even tried taping their mouth shut at night to optimize breathing! 



Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic, is one of the simplest ways you can bring relaxation into the body.  The best part is, it’s always available to you ! 

The Author

Cathy Legget, Certified Yoga Instructor

Cathy Leggett was first introduced to yoga as a part of her classical ballet training during high school. She rediscovered yoga as an outlet for stress relief while working on Wall Street and pursuing her MBA at the University of Chicago. Her classes are meditative with a focus on strength building, relieving corporate world stress (focus on neck, shoulders, low back etc.) and building self-awareness. Driving her practice is the belief that yoga unlocks energy to make you feel more alive, peaceful and at home with yourself. Cathy completed her 200-hour teacher training with mentor and teacher Amy Beth Treciokas, a longtime student of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and is currently working to complete her 85-hour Prenatal certification through Blooma. She loves teaching all levels of yoga, from absolute beginners to more advanced practitioners, and as a Mama herself, has a special place in her heart for those making their sacred journey into Motherhood. She is currently more deeply exploring Meditation and Mindfulness in her own personal yoga practice and looks forward to sharing this with her students in time.

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