How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing vs. Belly Breathing
6 min read

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Also Known as Belly Breathing
Even though we are all breathing constantly, most people do not practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is how to breathe properly.

Learn Diaphragmatic breathing

The breath is a gift to your body from when we arrive until we depart, so allow each moment to be full of nourishing, deep, soothing breaths, so that we can truly saturate ourselves into the “NOW”
― Nicole, Anahana Wellness Instructor

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Even though we are all breathing constantly, most people do not practice girl sitting up performing diaphragmatic breathingdiaphragmatic breathing, which is how to breathe properly.

This type of breathing involves taking deep, slow breaths from the bottom of the abdomen and filling up your lungs with each inhalation.

Chest breathing is the opposite of diaphragmatic or diaphragm breathing. With chest breathing, breaths are shallow, and only the top portion of the lungs fills with air upon each inhale. This type of breathing can lead to fatigue, lightheadedness, and a buildup of excess stress over time.

What are the Benefits?

Numerous benefits are associated with better breathing from the diaphragm. Here are just a few you can expect:

  •          Reduced stress

If you've ever been stressed before and have had someone tell you to "take a deep breath," there's a reason! Common breathing quotes like these aren't just clichés.

The truth is that proper breathing can change how you feel emotionally. By breathing deeply, a message is sent to your brain that instigates relaxation.

This message then extends to the rest of your body. Soon, you’ll feel a physical calmness come over you that only broadens as you continue your deep breathing exercises.

  •          Lowered blood pressure

The calm that comes over you as you breathe deeply with your diaphragm can positively impact your cardiovascular health. It’s an extension of the “relaxation response,” which induces slowed breathing, a slowed heart rate, and ultimately, better blood pressure control.

  •          Healthier lungs

In addition to helping your heart, better breathing can also help your lungs. That’s because, when you take in full breaths of air, you can give your diaphragm a full range of motion. This allows full oxygen exchange to take place.

Many breathing-related conditions can be improved with belly breathing. This includes COPD, asthma, and even dyspnea (when you have shortness of breath and/or can’t take a deep breath without yawning).

How to Breathe Properly

To breathe properly, it is important to use the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large muscle located directly beneath the rib cage. Your goal should be to engage this muscle by ensuring that your abdomen expands upon each inhale.

Unfortunately, this is not what most people tend to do when they are breathing, and that’s largely because most of us want to feel like we have a flat stomach. Pushing our tummies outward, then, feels uncomfortable.

If you can get past the initial discomfort, however, you’ll reap wonderful benefits from this type of breathing.

Learn a Diaphragm Exercise

Here’s a quick diaphragm exercise you can do any time you're feeling excessively stressed or anxious. This is also a good exercise to do before you go to sleep at night.

This is called box breathing or square breathing.

girl laying down performing diaphragmatic breathing with hands on her belly

What is Belly Breathing?

Belly breathing is essentially the same as breathing from the diaphragm. In an exercise class, you might hear it called yoga breathing or even abdominal breathing. These are all the same types of breathing.

Essentially, it means breathing with the abdomen and engaging the diaphragm. When you belly breathe, each breath is deep and low. The goal is to entirely fill the lungs with air. Doing this will make your abdomen (belly) expand outward, and this is why it's called breathing from the belly.

Frequently Asked Questions about Diaphragmatic or Diaphragm Breathing

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragmatic or diaphragm breathing is a type of deep breathing that engages the diaphragm, a large muscle located beneath the lungs. During inhalation, this muscle contracts and becomes flat.

When the diaphragm contracts, the belly expands outward. Upon exhalation, the diaphragm returns to a dome shape and retracts inward.

What is Diaphragmatic Breathing Good For?

When you know how to breathe correctly with diaphragmatic momentum, you reap multiple benefits. Most importantly, deeper diaphragm breathing can slow down your heart rate. This should help you feel calmer and less stressed.

Long-term, learning how to breathe consistently with your diaphragm can lower your blood pressure, help you sleep better, and reduce chronic anxiety.

How to do Diaphragmatic Breathing

Here’s how to take a deep diaphragmatic breath:

  1. Start by exhaling all of the air out of your lungs.
  2. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
  3. Begin to inhale through your nose, and as you do, feel the hand on your belly move outward. Your belly (lungs) should be expanding.
  4. Now, exhale out of your mouth. As you do, feel your belly retract back toward your spine and relax. The hand on your chest should not move.

How Often Should One do Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Ideally, one would use this type of breathing all the time, as opposed to breathing from the chest, in a shallow manner. The latter does not encourage the complete exchange of oxygen and may lead to fatigue, headaches, and unnecessary stress.

If you are interested in formal diaphragm exercises for better breathing, it is recommended that you practice deep breathing for 5 to 10 minutes a day at least once or twice a day to start with to calm down and achieve mindfulness

What is the difference between Diaphragmatic and Belly Breathing?

They are essentially the same thing. Both types of breathing involve taking slow deep breaths and engaging the diaphragm. By doing this, the abdomen will expand outward as you inhale and retract back toward the spine as you exhale.

Is Belly Breathing Bad or Good?

Want to know is belly breathing bad? It’s good! Taking deep breaths from the lower abdomen and fully inflating the lungs encourages the complete exchange of oxygen. It can also reduce stress and lower anxiety.

Slower, longer exhales, of course, mean higher carbon dioxide levels. With that bonus carbon dioxide, we gain a higher aerobic endurance.
― James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost 

How to do diaphragmatic breathing

Download Your FREE Diaphragmatic Breathing Guide!

Clint Johnson

Written by Clint Johnson

Clint teaches Yoga, Pilates, breath, and mediation to students and teachers all over the world. Prior to joining the wellness world, CJ as his friends call him, started his career as a MBS derivative trader and portfolio manager on Wall St. Clint is the founder of Anahana, and holds an MBA from INSEAD.

Related articles

9 min read
Breathing

Breathing Techniques

Do you want to learn what deep breathing techniques are all about? How to handle life’s stressors and hardships? Then...
7 min read
Breathing

Paradoxical Breathing

In some cases, paradoxical respiration can be acute and require emergency action. In others, it can be a chronic...
6 min read
Breathing

Pranayama Breathing

Let’s talk pranayama meaning. What is prana? What is ayama? In the ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit, prana means...
SHARE