Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing

photo of beach with word breathe on it

Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing

Belly breathing is a simple, but profound method to regain good health of body, mind and spirit, or to maintain it for those already in good health.

We usually breath without thought of how we are breathing. However, many of us are not breathing adequately to support our body in a healthy manner. Most of us think that as long as our lungs are working to move oxygen from the air, and releasing carbon dioxide we are doing great. This is not true though. When we experience pain or fear, one of the things we do is to hold our breath. If we are under constant pain, or in a world where we are under constant stress in general, we experience a constant sympathetic state of being, and one of the reactions we have when we are in a constant stress state is to breath in a shallow manner. We learn to breath incorrectly and it creates a state of dis-ease. This can unfortunately  become second nature and has for many of us. This leads to a domino effect in our body that causes trauma on all levels of our being.

Qi Gong To The Rescue

I was lucky to meet a Qi Gong master while learning to become a Naturopathic physician. Qi Gong involves the use of exercises, breathing and meditation to move and optimize energy in the body, mind and spirit.  The Qi Gong master was brought from China to teach classes for one year at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland Oregon. Luckily, the teacher who brought him to the school convinced me to take his Gi Gong class that I was told would focus on movement and breathing. The idea that I was going to spend an entire term leaning how to breath while moving seemed a bit odd to me, but I trusted the teacher advising me to take the class and have forevermore been grateful for the time I was able to spend with this amazing master of Qi Gong. The man was a master at moving energy, which I got to experience in full blown mode when I asked him one day if he could rescue a transplanted kidney that was not working in someone who had recently received a donor kidney. The transplant team had said they were giving up on the kidney, so I asked him if he would work on the recipient of this kidney. I and a friend were sitting across the room as he worked on the patient, and we could feel the energy being moved by the Qi Gong master from 15 feet away as he spent about 20 minutes working on the patient, giving me a realization of how powerful Qi Gong truly was. Hours later the kidney began to work. I realized then that not only could Qi Gong do wonderous magic for the person practicing it, but it could also be used to help others.

The first thing we learned in Qi Gong was that most of us were breathing wrong. We relearned to breathe from our belly. To breathe into our belly, pulling our diaphragm downward with an in breath and to pull the diaphragm out with an out breath. You will find a quick and easy demonstration of belly breathing taught by Deanna Hansen at this link. I suggest you watch it and learn how to breathe this way.

Why Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing is Important


  • We get insufficient oxygen delivered to our body when we breathe shallow breaths. We also do not adequately remove carbon dioxide.
  • Additionally, movement of the diaphragm with deep breathing will massage the abdominal and thoracic areas helping increase movement of blood and lymph in the abdomen and upper body, allowing for movement of nourishment and removal of toxins which supports all tissues and organs in these areas.
  • Belly breathing also puts us into a parasympathetic mode. This is the rest and digest mode which is necessary for good digestion and the healing activities of the body.
  • This diaphragmatic breathing’s ability to induce parasympathetic mode can also calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and induce a peaceful state.
  • Focusing on your breath, helps us to focus and be in the moment. It helps us become more self-aware and can be a part of meditation or prayer.
  • You will quickly figure out that you need to stand and sit with good posture to allow your diaphragm to move smoothly and fully to get full breaths. Without good posture the diaphragm can’t move freely. Belly breathing is all about good posture and taking a full breath in and a full breath out of the belly area.
  • Belly breathing has a profound effect on our health and it is something that costs nothing, but our time.
Breathing and Meditation


For a fun and informative 10 minutes, join this guided Qi Gong breathing exercise with Shaolin disciple, Shifu Yanxin, to learn important  details of Qi Gong breathing for beginners.

Simple Steps To Belly of Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Sit in a chair that allows you to have good posture with your feet flat on the floor, or you can lie on your belly as shown by Deanna Hansen at the link above or sit in a cross legged fashion as shown by Shifu Yanxin above. If you are unable to use these methods or prefer to lay down, try lying down on your back on the floor and put a pillow under your knees for support.
  2. If you need help relaxing, close your eyes and let your body relax. Imagine the sun shining down on your body melting your muscles as if they were made of butter.
  3. Take slow deep breaths through the nose, allowing each breath to move into your belly, moving your belly outwards. Then let that air all the way out, pushing the air out and allowing the belly to fall or sink back down. The belly gets big with inhalation and gets small with exhalation. Do not force the breath. For some it helps to put their hand on their belly to notice the air moving their belly outward. As you move your belly outward, you are lowering your diaphragm downward. It is easier to push the belly outward than  to focus on moving the diaphragm, but the diaphragm will move.

Some individuals will have energy blockage in their tissue that makes this exercise harder. They will have difficulty with this, but it can be remedied; Do not force this exercise. We are all different and if it is difficult for you, work with a breath therapist, or someone who does body work that understands breath work importance and can assist you. Depending on the individual and the reason for the blockage, an individual may be able to simply continue the breathing exercise as able, and increase the breathing ability over time, or they may need assistance through deep body tissue work, working with someone such as Deanna Hansen,  or massage therapists that practice myofascial release therapy, or other similar treatments. I use myofascial release techniques myself, and find them very powerful and easy to use on myself as well as others.

Deanna Hansen has a couple exellent books you will find on Amazon that I include here (we get a small percent of the sale if you buy from this link, but your cost does not increase).

Unblock Your Body


Fascia Decompression


An additional book on myofascial blockage release is by the myofascial master Leon Chaitow is also worth reading.

Fascial Dysfunction

Ending Thoughts

Belly or diaphragmatic breathing is a simple and inexpensive method to maintain health. It helps one  increase oxygen to the cells, enhances toxin removal, allows for better digestion, as well as feelings of peace and relaxation to better enjoy life.

For additional information on deep breathing, see a previous article written by Dr. Sharol called Deep Breathing.