We live in a society that is always hustling – always on the go. The result? Anxiety, depression, high stress, high blood pressure and a host of other disorders. Our solutions may include OTC/prescription medications, self-medicating with alcohol, self-harming behaviors or avoidance altogether. With healthcare costs continually rising, it’s important to utilize all the resources available to us before spending money on a band-aid fix. The amazing thing is, we all have access to one tool that can help with a myriad of health concerns, and even better, it’s completely free! It’s the power of our breath.

We are conditioned to be shallow breathers, meaning we breathe from the chest only. It’s second nature, and we don’t even think about it. However, shallow breathing isn’t a helpful, self-regulating type of breathwork that helps heal your body. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can reduce stress, promote a sense of calm or well-being and lower blood pressure, as well as slow down the chaos in our minds. It can increase energy, help detox the body and improve blood flow. Also, taking time to focus on our breath strengthens the mind-body connection, and we can feel deeper into our bodies. You can use this to send your breath to areas in the body that feel tight/restricted or painful. It’s also a fantastic way to become more present and mindful in your everyday life instead of feeling like you’re always on the go. Breathwork is a pure and powerful tool, and yet we don’t even know to use it!

How to do Diaphragmatic Breathing

If you’re not used to diaphragmatic breathing, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. However, the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.

  1. To start, sit in a comfortable position and place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your upper chest.
  2. Exhale all the stale air out of your lungs.
  3. Inhale through your nose for a count of six, breathing out through the belly and up into the chest. You should feel your hand on your abdomen move out on the inhale; the hand on your chest will remain relatively still.
  4. Hold your breath at the top for one count, then slowly exhale out of your mouth taking the same time or just a little longer than the inhale. On your exhale you should feel your belly move back in.

Try doing this just 5 minutes a day to start, and see what happens!

This article was authored by Jenell Consorti, Business Office Manager at Cary Orthopaedics’ Davis Drive Physical Therapy office and a Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist.