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How to Improve Your Breathing and Overall Well-Being

Audrey teaches us how to get big benefits by making changes in the way we breathe. Vocal expert and author, she's direct and effective.

Taking a Breath the Right Way: Use Your Tummy and Not Your Chest

Belly breathing: As you inhale, inflate the stomach and ribcage without lifting the chest area

Belly breathing: As you inhale, inflate the stomach and ribcage without lifting the chest area

11 Super Benefits of Belly Breathing (Diaphragmatic)

What if I told you that by changing the way you breathe you could::

  • Enjoy better health
  • Alleviate stress
  • Live a longer life
  • Have more clarity
  • Be more energetic
  • Boost your immune system
  • Fuel every cell in your body
  • Sleep better
  • Lower Your blood pressure
  • Release carbon dioxide and other toxic gases out of your lungs.
  • Improve your memory

Well, this is exactly what I've experienced, and it will happen for you too if you're willing to change the way you breathe. The way we inhale and exhale really does immediately affect the body, mind, and spirit. This change takes place at both the cellular and muscular levels.

Your body wants to breathe in the way it was designed to and right now, it's not.

How to Tell if You Are Inhaling Correctly

Stop whatever you're doing! In a standing position, or sitting up straight, take a deep breath. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let's see if you are actually breathing the way you were meant to breathe.If your body is doing any of the following you need help in correcting the way you inhale air:

  • Raising or lifting the shoulders as you inhale
  • Pulling your stomach in to take a breath
  • Raising or expanding the chest
  • Tightening the torso
  • Making any type of noise
  • Not being sure of how your body reacts as you inhale

So, how did you do? If your answer is "not so good," you're not alone. You have plenty of company. I'm going to give you the easiest life hack ever. I'm going to teach you how to breathe for a clearer mind and a healthier body.

Changing the way you breathe will change your life, and it's absolutely free.

Why Do I Need to Learn How to Breathe? I'm Already Breathing

Yes, I realize you are breathing. I also know that the way you're breathing is most likely wrong. Your body wants to breathe in the right way, the way it's designed to breathe. Lifting your chest, when you inhale, is not what your body wants to do. Pulling in your stomach to get a deep, full breath isn't natural for your body either.

You've been breathing for such a long time, the thought of someone teaching you how to breathe seems unusual. I get it! But once you recognize the critical problems incorrect breathing has created, breathing the right way will blow your mind.

Within your amazing body, you have a muscle, the most important muscle called the diaphragm. This muscle is unappreciated and underused. Many have the misguided belief that the diaphragm is only to be used by singers. But let me tell you that when you're not using this muscle to breathe, you might be surviving, but you're not fully thriving.

As you change the way you breathe, you will immediately notice the effect on your body, mind, and spirit.

As you learn to breathe diaphragmatically (belly breathing), you'll allow your body to do just what it wants to do, exactly what it's supposed to do. It's simply about moving your breath down to the lower part of your body. This is where it used to be, and this is where it should be.

This Is Your Diaphragm

The Diaphragm - your breathing muscle. Start using it now!

The Diaphragm - your breathing muscle. Start using it now!

Meet Your Diaphragm: Your Breathing Muscle

Everybody breathes, and the breath affects everything. The strength of our breathing muscles and the balance of oxygen in our body are the cornerstones of our health. Every time we breathe we nourish our body and brain.

Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located underneath your lungs and attached to your ribs and spine. The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs.

When you inhale, the diaphragm flexes downward and moves back upward as you exhale. The organs below your diaphragm have to move out of the way. They move down and out, which is why your abdomen moves out as you inhale. As you exhale, the organs gradually move back to their normal position.

There was a time when you knew exactly how to breathe diaphragmatically. In fact, you were born breathing this way. Look at the video below and you will see what I mean.

Notice the slight lift of the baby's belly as he breathes in and out naturally.

Relearning How to Breathe: Using the Diaphragm

Now, get ready for your beginning lesson on connecting to your diaphragmatic muscle:

  • Place a pad or blanket on the floor to lay on. If you're unable to lie on the floor, use your bed or couch. The firmer, the better as your spine will be straight.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing lay on the floor on your back with feet flat on the floor and the knees pointing upward.
  • Place a heavy book on your abdomen.
  • Inhale, through the nose, and you should see the book rising up.
  • Feel the sensations in your body. Notice that when you inhale, your lungs expand and take in air. Your abdomen moves out as you inhale.
  • Now you will exhale, through the mouth, as the air leaves your body, slowly. You will see or feel the abdominal area moving back into its normal position.

Starting this exercise on the floor is a great way to help you feel your breath movement. You will gradually work your way up to a standing and sitting position.

Eventually, with daily practice, week after week and month after month, this new way of breathing will become automatic.

If you feel a bit confused right now it's okay. It's normal when you begin working through these exercises. Be patient, keep at it because you're creating a new habit.

Belly Breathing is Diaphragmatic Breathing

Panting Like a Pooch Exercise

When you mimic the panting that a dog does, you can really feel the motion of breath going into your body. My students love this exercise because they immediately feel the connection to the diaphragmatic muscle. Here's all you have to do:

  • Observe how a dog breathes.
  • Pretend that you are a dog on a hot summer's day and pant. As you pant, notice what part of your body is moving. You'll feel it in your abdominal area.
  • As you inhale, the abdominal muscles move out. Continue panting and slow down the rate of your inhalation.
  • As you slow down, concentrate on the steady movement of your body as you breathe. Expand out as you inhale and slowly relax back in as you exhale.
  • Notice that during exhalation, your abdominal muscles move back inward.

The following video shows how you used to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing was natural and easy.

Wait! There's More Than One Major Player for Breathing Properly

So far, you've learned the importance of expanding the abdominal wall for a full, correct breath. Your intercostal muscles also expand during inhalation. These muscles run between the ribs and help to form and move (expand) the chest wall for breathing.

When using the diaphragm upon inhalation, the intercostals will expand, helping air to fill the lungs. Remember, the best breathing happens from your chest down. The bottom part of your ribs moves, your belly expands, your sides expand (intercostals), and eventually, even your back expands.

Below is a picture of the intercostals.

Intercostal Muscles

Intercostal Muscles expand during inhalation.

Intercostal Muscles expand during inhalation.

Breathing in a Standing Position and Monitoring the Belly Breath

In a standing position, place your hands on your abdominal area to feel the expansion.  Eventually, move the hands to the sides for feeling additional expansion from the waistline and lower rib cage.

In a standing position, place your hands on your abdominal area to feel the expansion. Eventually, move the hands to the sides for feeling additional expansion from the waistline and lower rib cage.

Breathing in a Standing Position

Once you've got the floor breathing exercise nailed, you're ready to test your new belly breathing in a standing position. If you find that you have a hard time expanding your abdomen standing, return to the floor position and continue practicing.

Using a full-length mirror, do the following:

  • Stand sideways at a full-length mirror to observe your body.
  • As you inhale, check your neck, chest, and shoulders. They should not move.
  • Only your belly and pelvis should be moving back and forth with each breath you take.
  • A lower body breath is a healthy breath and expands on the inhale.

Two very powerful benefits from breathing this way are:

  1. This gives your internal organs a great massage.
  2. Your body will receive a better flush of toxins from your body.

Now, aren't these reasons enough to learn to breathe from your belly?

Note: Make it a practice to return to floor breathing often. This will be a good reminder for correct body movement when standing. Check out the video below.

Final Reminder

Taking time to learn how to breathe effectively can help to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and maintain focus. We can all monitor our breathing to make sure our belly, ribcage and even the back all inflate at the very same time whenever we take a breath. Sometimes inflation feels huge when we breathe and other times it may feel quite minimal. It's all okay. Check out the photo below for inflation in the back area. It will be easier to feel the expansion in the position shown. When standing, inflation will be barely noticeable. I recommend a sitting position to help you feel this effect.

Breathing, a basic human function, is taken for granted. The trick is to learn how to exercise control over our breathing, enabling us to experience both mental and physical health benefits.

Breathing is the link between body and mind. When we are upset, worried or anxious, our breathing becomes faster. If we consciously slow our breathing down to a gentle wave-like pattern, we can soothe our own nerves, settle our thoughts, and begin to calm down. Remember to breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth.

Top athletes, performers, and CEO's all practice and swear by it, and you will too. It's time for you to turn your breathing from an unconscious process into a conscious one. You will see long-term improvements in your health and well-being.

When the breath is limited, life is limited. We breathe in only to breathe out. We can either breathe in strength and courage or we can breathe in negative thoughts and emotions. The choice is ours to make.

How to Inhale and Feel Inflation in the Back Area

Place your elbows on your knees and drop the neck to your chest, then inhale deeply to feel the expansion through the back area.

Place your elbows on your knees and drop the neck to your chest, then inhale deeply to feel the expansion through the back area.

Resource

Breathing Alive: A Guide To Conscious Living by Reshad Feild ISBN 1-85230-050-7

The Importance of Breathing

The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as "pneuma" is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. - Alexander Lowen

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Audrey Hunt

Comments

RTalloni on July 14, 2019:

Thanks very much for this information. Am in a place of needing to work at maintaining posture and being careful to regularly breathe deeply as my activity is limited. This provides helpful focus on the anatomy of breathing.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 17, 2019:

Miebakagh

Thank you for your kind comments. I appreciate your support. We would all enjoy better health by learning diaphragmatic breathing.

Gupi

You are absolutely right about how we can all benefit from avoiding chest breathing and apply diaphragmatic breathing instead. Thank you.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 15, 2019:

Hi, there both bellows breathing and diagrammatic breathings are useful to every person. Vocalcoach has done a nice job. Thanks for the insight and weighing in.

Gupi on June 14, 2019:

That is such a useful article. It is very well structured and I find that your diagrammatic breathing and belly breathing techniques very useful. I personally think that is very important that we breathe in the correct way to gain full health benefits. Thank you for sharing this wonderful advice.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 14, 2019:

Well noted and thanks.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 14, 2019:

I would very much appreciate your help. I do not know your business model. But for me, I need to sing more and teach it to my boy. My elder son is a leader of a band. The Human Assembly up Frisco way, Brooks.

I will connect privately but report back for others.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 13, 2019:

Eric

Congratulations, my friend. This is wonderful. I've heard that smoking is one tough habit to break. Your lungs are ready for cleansing and diaphragmatic breathing is the way to go. Be sure to check out my hub on this subject. I'd leave a link but I think "it's against the hub rules."

I agree with you to go with singing and humming and I'd like to offer you a free introductory skype lesson to evaluate your voice and set you on the right course.

Send me an email if you're interested. I love helping my hub buddies!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 13, 2019:

So cool I am now about 40 days without smoking. How do I gradually walk back into breathing health? I do not care for the doctor stuff I think that singing and maybe humming is the way to go? Of course the exercise -- shut up.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 13, 2019:

Deborah

I'm so happy that you have approved my article. Because you're a yoga instructor you have knowledge about the importance of diaphragmatic breathing. Do you teach regular classes in your area?

Have you thought about writing an article on "chair yoga for seniors?" I caught a PBS special on this a few months ago and gave it a try.

Thanks, again, and peace be with you.

Audrey

Deborah Demander Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on June 13, 2019:

This is a great article, with very practical instruction on how to breathe more effectively and efficiently. As a yoga instructor, I know the importance of breath. Thanks Audrey, for making this subject understandable and doable for everyone! Great tips!

Namaste

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 01, 2019:

Fantastic. I see what you mean. I do seem to push it too hard with the high notes. That is so interesting. And as you mention it my son does also even though he is in that natural range now.

I am a natural "boom box" a church of 300 and a microphone is fully unnecessary. But the high ones are different.

Write more and tell more my friend. (Oh and remembered that guys name Chuck Connnor's - The Rifleman)

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 01, 2019:

Hello, Audrey Hunt, I am glad you found my imput relevant. Today, I was sheduled for a stretch, exercise, and jogging workout.I have to mind your instruction on breathing from the belly. I am glad I am doing it right. Your article is a reference ponit.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 27, 2019:

Eric,

As you and your boy work on increasing your singing range keep in mind:

1. Avoid getting louder as you sing higher. Try to keep the same soft to medium dynamic when singing from low to high.

2.Increase your air upon inhalation, letting it out slowly, a little at a time.

Never strain the voice by attempting to sing higher than is comfortable and easy.

There I go, playing teacher again. Can't seem to halt this old horse.

I appreciate your comments regarding tone, pitch, and volume. Inflection is everything!

Help yourself to plenty of dessert. :)

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 27, 2019:

Coach I thank you. So tonight my boy and I will practice different positions. We have been working on ranges.

Some old fella said people judge you by the words you use. That is just a baseline. We are judged on our inflection just as much. Tone, pitch, volume and cadence are just as important as the words. Singing is the desert.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 26, 2019:

Hi, Eric (you wonderful man). Kudos for working on your breathing. Professional singers and actors are required to do all breathing from the belly in a number of body positions.

The musical "Les Miserables" comes to mind. The female lead is required to sing a most difficult song on bended knee as well as lying down in a bed during her dying scene.

Several male leads sing in just about every position - from fighting the enemy with a sword in hand to be draped over a canon.

Learning to sing by using the diaphragmatic muscle in a variety of positions becomes helpful to calm down a person who has fallen to the floor from everyday accidents that can leave the body in every position imaginable. "Take a deep breath" are usually the first words we hear when a paramedic comes to our aid. So, I imagine Mary is an old hand at bending over as she sings.

Thanks, my friend.

De Nada

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 26, 2019:

I do wonder about overall health. I worked on the breathing today. I really tried to do high and low ranges. Wow, walk two miles but this takes more energy in a good way. Your lessons help me. Muchas Gracias from down here border town.

I am studying. The Danish National at this time and i was checking out Mary of Peter Paul and Mary -- how does she do that bent over?

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 24, 2019:

Miebakagh

This morning I took a long hike in the snow covered hills. As I focused on my breath, my entire being felt more alive and renewed energy flowed through my veins. Yes, it was cold, but the sun's rays provided warmth upon my skin.

Your comments are always encouraging and inspiring.

Thank you.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on February 24, 2019:

Hello, Audrey Hunt, I appreciated your comments. Many times, the medical profession and other physical or keep fit experts will regard such matters as minor. But I wonder whether these really realized that life depends on our unconscious breath, that we have to consciously develop the phenomenon. It is only when they note a person cannot breathe well during ill-health, then they will put such under the tube! Thank you for weighing in.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 24, 2019:

Miebakagh

It's always a pleasure to read your comments. I learn something new and interesting about you as well as the subject matter. I so admire people who work hard at keeping fit and live both a nurturing and nutritious lifestyle.

I continue to wonder why more importance on the breath is not discussed among health practitioners and the medical profession.

How wonderful to hear that you focused on your childrens breathing when they were babies. And concentrating on the belly breath as we take a walk is so beneficial to our overall health.

You're doing everything right, my friend!

Thank you, kindly.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on February 23, 2019:

Hello, Audrey Hunt, as a keep fit enthusiast, breathing is my first before I stretch, exercise, jog or even swim. Your article stressed the very importance of belly breathing right from the beginning. You demostrated this well with the videos of babes. I remember here when my children were just babes, I like watching them breath and immitate same.

I take belly breathing exercises very seriously. Before I bath, I will start belly breathing standing. I usually took a good breath before taking a stroll. Thank you for sharing such wonderful, and salient subjects. Some time ago, I was thinking of writing a story about the importance of deep breathing as it affect every areas of man's life. But you have done it better for us, Thanks again for sharing.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on October 05, 2018:

Sneha Sunny

Thank you so much for your kind approval of my article about breathing correctly. It's people like you that I write for. Keep up the good work on your personal wellness journey. Breathing is everything! I appreciate your sharing your feelings. I wish you superb health and joy every day.

Sneha Sunny from India on October 05, 2018:

I very recently started practicing deep breathing as a part of my "personal wellness" journey. LOL. This post is a great guide to anyone who is starting out. Normal, relaxed breathing is deep, abdominal breathing, and you are right, most people are not breathing right. It's really beneficial especially for people in stress and anxiety. Does a wonderful job in calming every inch down.

Thank you for sharing! :)

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on August 08, 2018:

Dianna

How marvelous to know you're working on your breathing! It's so rewarding to find a reader who is actually on the very same wave-length. Thank you for this.

Dianna Mendez on July 26, 2018:

This is so good to read and very helpful. I have been practicing my deep breathing regularly and now I have this wonderful article to gauge my accuracy.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 22, 2018:

manatita44

I'm always so honored when I see that you're visiting me. Thank you for you comments.

manatita44 from london on July 21, 2018:

Great videos and instructions on this very essential function life.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 16, 2018:

Genna

So nice to see you. I hope you're okay and that you're starting to take care of your beautiful self. How sweet of your son to bring you a book on yoga. This practice, along with diaphragmatic breathing, is a wonderful way to "love" your body. I hope you will see great benefits soon. Thank you for the congratulations on my up-and-coming book. I've much to do yet. Hugs.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 14, 2018:

Rajan

I like your comment. I appreciate your taking time to read my article. This means so much to me. You have remarkable knowledge about health. Breathing from the diaphragm is so important for maintaining good health.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on July 14, 2018:

We take so much for granted, and often don't listen to our own bodies. Thank you for this wonderful article. My son bought me a book on yoga (I've been working too hard it seems without taking proper care of myself), and I plan to start reading and practicing this over the weekend. And congratulations on your book! Hugs. :-)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 13, 2018:

Breath is life so breathing correctly and fully is very important. Thank you for the lessons.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 09, 2018:

Maria

Hello, my beautiful friend. The book I'm writing is a huge undertaking. I would be at a complete loss if not for our incredibly talented Bill Holland. He keeps me on track.

Thank you for being in my corner. You are always an inspiration to me, both as a person and as a gifted writer.

Love,

Audrey

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 07, 2018:

Dora

You're right! Learning to breathe correctly can absolutely be life-altering. Thanks for the visit and good health to you.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 06, 2018:

Flourish

Your band teacher was right on! I love the flute. Playing this instrument requires major breath control as do all wind instruments. Thank you my friend. Hope you're enjoying your summer.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 06, 2018:

Chitrangada

Hello, my friend. I want to thank you for your comments. You've shown appreciation for my article which makes me very happy! Diaphragmatic breathing should be taught to everyone. The results are extremely beneficial. I wish you good health and much joy.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 05, 2018:

agusfanani

The health benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are dramatic. I'm glad you're going to discipline yourself and practice the belly breath. Don't give up! Keep doing the floor exercises daily, and before you know it, your body will automatically breathe this new way. Thank you.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 04, 2018:

Valuable information made easier to understand with the wonderful visual diagrams you've included, dear Audrey.

I'm excited at the thought of you publishing a book. Please keep us posted!!

Happy 4th of July. Love, Maria

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 02, 2018:

Pamela

So pleased to know that you're going to work on the belly breathing once again. I'm not a doctor, but I've personally witnessed astounding improvements with certain lung diseases. Good luck Pamela and if you ever need my help...just whistle:)

Peggy

You're going to notice some big changes in your body as you implement diaphragmatic breathing. I'm so excited to learn that you'll be working on this. Let me know how you're progressing. Thank you, my friend.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 02, 2018:

Very essential article. Helpful to the point of being life-altering. Thanks for the lesson!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 01, 2018:

When I was in junior high and learning how to play the flute I had a band leader who took extra time to drive this point home, along with exercises. Thanks for the reminders.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 30, 2018:

Bill,

HaHaHa...you are one clever man! Spam indeed!

Love,

Audrey

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 30, 2018:

Excellent article about the correct way of breathing. Your tips and suggestions are so well explained with the pictures and videos.

Breathing in the right manner is the most important thing to be learnt, while practising Yoga. Obviously it has great impact on our health.

Thanks for sharing this useful and well presented article!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 29, 2018:

Mary

Yoga is excellent for using the diaphragm for proper breathing. I know its hard to change your breathing, but stick with it Mary and if you need any help, please let me know.

Eric

Yes, learning the belly breath can be challenging. As you keep practicing the floor exercise eventually your body will take over and soon diaphragmatic breathing will become automatic.

agusfanani from Indonesia on June 29, 2018:

Wow I didn't know that the way of breathing correctly has so many benefits to our body. I have to learn how to do it to improve my health too.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 29, 2018:

Thanks for the lesson in how to properly breathe. I was doing it as I was reading your instructions and plan to practice it so that it becomes my norm without even thinking. Pinning this to my health board.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 29, 2018:

Breathing correctly is well worth the effort. I really appreciate this article as I have a lung disease, and doing this should help. I use to practice this several years ago but simply stopped thinking about it.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 29, 2018:

I wonder what would happen if you mentioned that articles like this one will be in your upcoming book? Is that spam according to HP? Is my question indirect spam??? Hey, everyone, Audrey has a book coming out soon!!!!!

love,

bill

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 29, 2018:

So hard! But in Yoga today it will get easier. Practice yet let go.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 29, 2018:

I remembered learning yoga and he first thing the instructor want us to correct is our breathing. It is hard to do so after years of not doing it correctly.