Your Diaphragm: Place one hand on the upper portion of the stomach just a few inches above the navel but below the breast bone. Sniff in several small inhalations-per-breath through the nose. The movement in that area is the diaphragm working at its best. Test Your Breathing Technique: The next time you feel stressed, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach. If you are breathing correctly (diaphragmatically), your stomach should feel as if it’s expanding. But if your chest is rising, you are breathing superficially.
Why Is Superficial Breathing harmful?: The average breath rate is 12-15 times per minute and many of us breathe faster than that. Rapid, shallow breathing can reduce the carbon-dioxide level in the blood which causes the arteries to constrict, reducing blood flow throughout the body. When this constriction occurs, even though the lungs are breathing in more oxygen than what the body needs, the brain and body will experience a shortage of oxygen. This can play havoc with the nervous system, making us tense or anxious and less likely to think clearly.
How To Breathe From The Diaphragm: Place one hand just above your stomach and the other on your upper chest. Purse the lips slightly as if to whistle. Exhale slowly through pursed lips while slightly contracting the stomach muscles. It’s not necessary to force all the air out. Inhale slowly through the nose. Pause slightly to allow better oxygen exchange in the lungs. Repeat. The diaphragm should do at least 80 per cent of the work of breathing. In order for you to get the most out of this magnificent muscle, you should practice regularly several times a day to ensure that you are not breathing superficially from your upper chest.