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Diaphragmatic breathing (AKA Belly Breathing) explained by experts

Blonde woman on her back doing yoga

As we get older, many of us gradually shift to shallow, less satisfying "chest breathing." Relearning how to breathe from the diaphragm is beneficial for everyone, especially if you or someone you know is living with lymphedema.

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is one way to move lymphatic fluid through your body. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no active pump, so the flow of lymph fluid relies on your muscle and joint activities.

The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, plays an important role in breathing. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward. This creates more space in your chest, allowing the lungs to expand. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing are two terms used to describe this typeof breathing.

Here is what some of the experts have to say:

1.     Belly breathing involves fully engaging the stomach muscles and diaphragm when breathing. This means actively pulling the diaphragm down with each inward breath. In this way, the lungs fill more efficiently. - Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT

2.     Belly breathing is a slow and deep breathing method, it should not be considered as just a breathing control. It is defined as breathing in slowly and deeply through the nose using the diaphragm with a minimum movement of the chest with one hand placed on the chest and the other on the belly. – Hidetaka Hamasaki, NIH

3.      Diaphragmatic breathing is meant to help you use the diaphragm correctly while breathing. The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle for breathing. This breathing technique offers several benefits to your body including reducing your blood pressure and heart rate and improving relaxation. – Cleveland Clinic

4.      Belly breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of in coming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. – Harvard Medical School

5.     Individuals affected by lymphedema can greatly benefit from diaphragmatic breathing exercises, especially when combined with a comprehensive decongestive exercise regimen. While muscular movement clearly helps the lymphatic system, deep breathing is equally important. – The Compression Closet

How do you belly breathe? Share your experiences and tips.


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