The Diaphragm-Our Pressure Regulator
Societal pressure, peer pressure, pressure to succeed, pressure to perform ………the list goes on.
Being under pressure is a common thing in today’s world.
One of the keys to managing these external pressures is learning how to manage our internal pressure. The biggest pressure regulator we have in our body is our diaphragm. Day in and day out it is pressurizing and depressurizing our systems through the act of breathing.
When we inhale, our diaphragm contracts and moves downward which decreases pressure in our lungs to allow air to flow in.
When we exhale our diaphragm relaxes and moves upward causing air to move out of the lungs.
This pumping action also assists fluid movement through our lymphatic and circulatory systems. In a perfect scenario, the diaphragm works efficiently and is not overcome by compensation. Stress alone can wreak havoc on this system and cause the neck and shoulders to become primary breathing muscles. In stressful times, we find ourselves taking shallow breaths, pulling our shoulders up, tightening our necks, moving our heads forward, and bracing for the day. This pattern has reaches far beyond just airflow and a sore neck and shoulders. It makes us irritable, disturbs sleep, impacts our health, and wears us out. Short breaths can also shorten the diaphragm over time thus feeding the cycle.
The diaphragm is a muscle and just like the other muscles in our bodies, it can become weak and tight.
So, how do I train my diaphragm?
Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, or in and out through the nose for quiet breathing 6 to 10 times per minute.
When performing breathing exercises, exhale longer than inhaling to recruit abdominals.
I like to use a 4-count inhale and 6 count exhale (4:6 technique).
This is “resonance” breathing, which is soothing to the nervous system and optimizes fluid flow throughout our bodies. It sends the message to our bodies that we are okay.
Next time you are under pressure, instead of fidgeting or looking at your phone, slow your breathing and see how you feel!