The diaphragm, the key muscle used in breathing

The average adult takes approximately 20,000 breaths a day. Make ’em count by engaging in diaphragmatic breathing. 

Inhaling deep into the abdomen helps to quiet the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight or flight” response) and in turn allows for the parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest and digest” response) to do its thing. This type of breathing promotes relaxation and stress and pain relief. 

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs. As you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and descends, increasing space in the chest cavity allowing for the lungs to expand. As you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and ascends.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen just below your rib cage. Inhale slowly through your nose so that the hand on abdomen rises while the hand your chest remains as still as possible. As you exhale through your mouth, the hand on your abdomen will start to fall again while the hand on your chest should continue to stay still. 

Like anything worth doing, this will take practice to learn. Aim to work up to 5 to 10 mins a day. A great time to do this is right before bed or upon waking.

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