You’ve undoubtedly heard that it’s important to breathe properly. All sports experts now agree that the “proper” use of breathing, which is indispensable for the continuation of life, improves your exercise performance and has a beneficial effect on the health of your internal organs. But what exactly does “breathing properly” mean?
Oxygen is one of the main fuels for your muscles. You need it not only for your athletic performance but also for the easiest tasks like talking, walking, etc. The more oxygen that gets to the muscles, the less effort it takes to do all these activities. The best way to increase oxygen levels in your blood is belly breathing – in other words, activating your diaphragm while you breathe.
First of all, what is the diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle, located between the lungs and abdominal cavity. It should be active while breathing whether you’re exercising or not.
If you don’t fully engage this muscle when breathing, you will take shorter and shallower breaths which will lead you to have less oxygen in your blood. If you’re feeling like your breathing begins and ends in your chest, you are probably not using your diaphragm muscle effectively.
Poor posture, stress, and other factors lead people to stop using their diaphragms properly and cause them to breathe shallowly.
What is the result of a weakened diaphragm?
A weakened diaphragm causes discomfort in the chest and back muscles. It weakens the pelvic floor muscles and lower back as well.
If you breathe without activating the diaphragm, you have an increased risk of hernias, muscle cramping, and dizziness.
Not only does shallow breathing reduce overall muscle performance, it also increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which will ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and stress, and even make you feel short of breath.
How can I activate my diaphragm while breathing?
You can follow the steps below to start activating your diaphragm and improve your diaphragmatic breathing over time to make it an essential part of your life. In time, you can integrate it into your workouts.
- Lie on the floor, face up, with your knees slightly bent.
- Place your hands lightly on your stomach.
- Concentrate on breathing using the diaphragm, not using the chest, and feeling the stomach rise as the lungs fill from the bottom.
- Let the stomach fall naturally when you breathe out by relaxing the diaphragm.
- Progress by placing a small weight, such as a small book, on your stomach.
- The next stage is to stand up for the exercise, placing your hands on your stomach again to feel how you breathe.
- Finally, practice this breathing during your exercise sessions.