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Diaphragmatic Breathing for Recovery and Performance

Updated: Mar 3, 2022


Diaphragmatic breathing is a foundational technique that can help both a person stuck in the injury cycle and an uninjured person striving for high performance. At Neighborhood Physical Therapy I believe it is essential for faster progress. It can help you heal. It can help you become more athletic when integrated into training. It can help lower stress. I will tell you how to do it and then why I believe it is so important.

How to do diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly.

  • As you inhale into your belly feel the hand on your belly move out away from your spine.

  • The hand on your chest SHOULD NOT MOVE.

  • Repeat this pattern with or without your hands and start to feel that belly expansion happening in a full 360 degree circle around your lower trunk.

  • Relax into a slow breathing pattern of about a 5 second inhale and a 5 second exhale. It doesn't have to be deep. Just slow. Don’t force anything, the idea is just to let your breath slow down into this rhythm.

Why diaphragmatic breathing is so important:

  • It can help you relax in tense situations.

Rickson Gracie is a living legend of martial arts. He is a red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Never heard of that belt? That’s because people usually don’t get a red belt while they’re still alive. When Rickson Gracie was asked the most important aspect of his martial arts practice can you guess what he said? It wasn’t guard passing, it wasn’t leg attacks, it was breathing properly. It was his super power to stay calm in any situation and it took decades to master and integrate into his martial arts technique.

  • It can improve performance.

Diaphragmatic breathing can also lead to increased performance because it lowers anxiety and brings fluidity to our movement. The yoga practitioner and the champion powerlifter are both using diaphragmatic breathing, it just is applied differently.

  • Diaphragmatic breathing can help you break out of an injury cycle.

When in chronic pain our nervous system adapts and we get better at feeling that particular pain even when our body tissue may have healed. Every breath we take that comes from a place of tightness, anxiety, fear, or negativity reinforces the fight or flight response that keeps the pain easy to trigger. Every diaphragmatic breath we take that is infused with calm, lightness, and curiosity reinforces the rest and digest response that can eventually decrease chronic pain.

If you want to get better, do it!

Whether you are hurt and want to get better or you are working on a new challenge and want to get better, diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful tool.

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