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Breathing Techniques: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing helps you to breathe with your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large muscle that plays an important part in breathing. It's located below your lungs. It separates your chest from your abdomen.

With a chronic lung disease, you may use your accessory muscles (a combination of muscles in your chest, shoulders, and neck) instead of your diaphragm. Using these muscles takes more effort and makes shortness of breath worse. Using your diaphragm makes breathing easier and allows you to take in more air.

Diaphragmatic breathing may help you:

  • Be able to breathe easier

  • Take in more air

  • Relax

  • Exercise or be more active

How to do diaphragmatic breathing

Woman with one hand on abdomen, inhaling through nose.

Woman with one hand on abdomen, exhaling through pursed lips.

  1. Lie on your back with a pillow under your head or sit in a comfortable chair. Make sure your back is supported.

  2. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen, the area over your stomach.

  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Count to 2. As you inhale, your abdomen should move out against your hand. Your chest should stay still. .

  4. Breathe out with your lips together. Count to 4. As you breathe out, you should feel your stomach move in.

  5. Notice that you breathe in to a count of 2 and that you breathe out to a count of 4. This helps you to keep your breathing slow and steady.

  6. Practice this breathing technique for 5 to 10 minutes at first. Try to do it 3 to 4 times a day. Then increase the length of time and how often you practice it.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.