The diaphragm is a major muscle used in breathing and is located beneath the lowest two ribs. At rest, the diaphragm muscle is bell shaped. During inspiration, it lowers and flattens out.
Optimizing the use of the diaphragm is beneficial because it pulls air into the lower lobes of the lungs where more gas exchange takes place. Not only is the diaphragm the most efficient of all respiratory muscles, but using it tends to be very relaxing and calming.
Along with our diaphragm, we use intercostal and abdominal muscles in the work of breathing. The intercostals (muscles between the ribs) pull to lift the rib cage up and out. This causes the lungs to open in all directions and air can be pulled down the airways. To exhale, the muscles that have been pulling relax and air is forced out.
The diaphragm tenses, pulling air in; and relaxes, letting the spring of the ribs push the air out again.
Pursed Lip Breathing
- Breathe in through your nose.
- Purse lips slightly as if to whistle.
- Breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
- Do not force the air out.
The Resistance Created by Breathing Out Through Pursed Lips:
- Slows down the breathing rate.
- Creates a back pressure that helps keep the airways open.
- Use a comfortable chair.
- Relax your back.
- Your feet should touch the floor or be supported comfortably.
- Inhale through your nose, exhale with pursed lips.
- Make exhaling slower and longer than inhaling.
- Practice inhaling and exhaling a few times to get used to the slower exhalation.
- Spread fingers out.
- Place both hands on stomach.
- Concentrate on expanding belly as you inhale through your nose.
- Slowly exhale through pursed lips.
- The exhale should be longer and slower than the inhale.
Brought to you by the National Jewish Health Rehabilitation Department.