What is diaphragmatic breathing? – Let’s all take a deep breath in!

By: Dr. Ashley Narula, DC

The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing (DB), also known as eupnea, uses the diaphragm correctly while breathing in order to:

  • strengthen the diaphragm
  • decrease the work of breathing by slowing down breathing rate
  • decrease oxygen demand
  • use less effort to breathe

The illustration above describes diaphragmatic breathing technique.   

DB is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing. According to the National Centre for Complimentary and Integrative Health, “deep breathing involves slow and deep inhalation through the nose, usually to a count of 10, followed by slow and complete exhalation for a smaller count. The process may be repeated 5-10 times, several times per day.”  DB allows one to take normal breaths while maximizing the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. It is a way of interrupting the “fight or flight” response and triggering the body’s normal relaxation response.

So what are the benefits?

DB, when practiced regularly, may lead to the prevention of symptoms commonly associated with stress, which may include high blood pressure, headaches, stomach conditions, depression, anxiety, etc

DB is also used in those who have cardiopulmonary conditions (ie. COPD) to improve a variety of factors such as:

  • Pulmonary function
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Posture
  • Respiratory muscle length
  • Respiratory muscle strength

Evidence also shows that DB can improve overall quality of life in short term and long term, compared to asthma medication and education, for those with laboured breathing,



National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Diaphragmatic breathing. 2015.Accessed on April 1 2017. Web [https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/camterms.htm]

Prem V, Sahoo  R, Adhikari  P. Effect of diaphragmatic breathing exercise on quality of life in subjects with asthma: A systematic review. Phys Theo and Practice. 2012;29(4):271-77.


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