Girl Doing Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Benefits | How To Do Diaphragmatic Breathing | Q&A | Music Guided Breathing

Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Madrid Cuevas Msc PhD.  Written by: Ben Gillett MSc.  Updated: 7 October 2021

Diaphragmatic breathing helps your body relax and acts as a great breathing exercise to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. It only takes a few minutes and you can do it anywhere.  The diaphragmatic breathing technique focuses on pulling a deep breath into your lungs using your diaphragm muscle and exhaling slowly to relax the body.  Scientific research has shown that it is effective in reducing anxiety. [1]

Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragmatic breathing technique is perfect when you need a moment to decompress during your day or settle down for bed.  And deep breathing benefits go beyond helping you fall asleep. Think of deep breathing as a tool that’s always available to you. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or just need a mental reset, you can always use your diaphragm breathing to help feel calm, in control and aware of yourself and your surroundings.  It has many benefits including:

  • aids relaxation for better sleep

  • helps calm anxiety

  • slows your breathing rate

  • decreases effort to breathe

  • strengthens your core muscles

  • increases blood oxygen levels

  • reduces your blood pressure


How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing

How to get started with diaphragmatic breathing: 

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing. 

  2. Make sure you have a straight back, knees bent, and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. 

  3. Place one hand just below your rib cage.

  4. Inhale: slowly breathe in through your nose so that your stomach expands out against your hand. Let your breath flow as deeply into your stomach as is comfortable without forcing it.   

  5. Exhale: slowly breathe out through your pursed lips, tightening your stomach muscles and letting your stomach fall.  

  6. Breathe in regularly and gently.  You should breathe out for longer than you breathe in order to maximise your relaxation.

The diaphragm is a muscle, and it may take some time to strengthen it. Once you know the technique you can let your hands lie wherever they're comfortable.  Over time, it will become easier to check in with your breath and use diaphragmatic breathing.  

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises GIF

Paced Breathing

Doing slow diaphragmatic breathing has been shown by numerous pieces of research to put your body into a relaxed state.  One way to ensure that your breathing is at the optimal slow rate for relaxation is to do paced breathing.  In this form of breathing exercise, you pace your breathing at a specific slow rate.  Many experts believe that taking a longer exhale than inhale is better for increasing relaxation.  You can pace your breathing by counting slowly up to seven on the inhale and slowly to eleven on the exhale.

How Often Should You Do Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. There is no limit on how often you should do diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Still, the more you do, the better you’ll get, and more naturally it will come to you. 

You can start by practicing for 15 minutes before you go to sleep every day.  It may also be helpful to stop and do at least five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing any time you feel particularly stressed or anxious.  


Do Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises Help With Anxiety?

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing can help minimise stress and anxiety by helping you control and slow down your breathing. We can avoid being in fight or flight mode by being aware and controlling our breathing. Your respiratory system gives your brain cues for what action it needs to take. Hence, controlling our breathing can help calm our mind, and help us to make better decisions as well as  lower our heart rate and blood pressure.

Do Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises Help With Sleep?

Research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best ways to improve your sleep. Taking deep breaths as you settle in for bed can help your body relax faster, fall asleep more easily, and maintain a good, quality night's rest. When you take deep breaths and engage your diagram, your respiratory system sends signals to your brain, letting it know that it’s time to relax and be calm. Whether you’re using these breathing methods to reduce anxiety or help you fall asleep, it sends the same message to the brain and can assist with any needs for a calm and mellow mindset.

What is the Difference Between Belly Breathing and Diaphragmatic Breathing?

The term ‘belly breathing’ has been used to help encourage taking a full deep breath by filling your belly up with a big inhale. The problem is that you can fill and expand your belly without taking a deep inhale. This shorter breath is caused by focusing on expanding your belly instead of engaging your diaphragm, and filling your lungs. Instead of trying to push your belly out, focus on taking in as large a breath as you comfortably can.

When Shouldn't You Do Diaphragmatic Breathing

Research and experience suggests that deep breathing is a valuable technique in many, many situations.  One exception stands out - those who experience a panic attack as a result of anxiety over their physical state.  In this case, focussing on breathing might not be helpful.  In general, it makes sense to use common sense - if you find doing breathing exercises makes you feel worse, don't do them.

Music Guided Diaphragmatic Breathing

Sometimes it can be challenging to sit and focus on your breathing, so we’ve developed some meditation music to help keep track of the inhales and exhales. Breathing along with music can help you focus and guide your breathing exercises to be slow and relaxed while giving you the cues to inhale or exhale.

As you listen to the music, you’ll hear rising and falling notes. These notes act as a guide to inhale on the rising notes and exhale on the falling notes. You’ll also hear some breathing in at the start of this music, which can guide you to follow.


More Benefits With Less Effort

Combine diaphragmatic breathing with the benefits of paced breathing, binaural beats and nature sounds all at once.  What's more it's easier to do diaphragmatic breathing with a musical guide.  Try it - its free.


[1] The Effectiveness of Diaphragmatic Breathing Relaxation Training for Reducing Anxiety Yu-Fen Chen, Xuan-Yi Huang, Ching-Hui Chien, Jui-Fen Cheng (2016) 

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