The Diaphragm is a respiratory muscle that enables us to fill our lungs with air. To help you get a clear picture of how the diaphragm works it would be relevant to the actions of a toilet plunger, when pressed down the muscle is contracted and flattens out resulting in inspiration. Try this now, take in a big breath and notice how your ribs expand the bigger the breath you inhale. Notice that inspiration is a forced movement, you need to contract the diaphragm; a muscle, in order to inhale. Where as expiration is a passive movement, it just happens and there is no muscle contraction needed, and like the plunger, if you took your hand off the handle the recoil from the plunger would bounce back to its normal dome shape; just like the relaxed state of the diaphragm there is no muscular contraction is needed. So the reason for these exercises is to increase the strength of the diaphragm and the other muscles of inspiration and expiration; the movement of the chest cavity and to rehabilitate and improve the elastic recoil of the lungs and associated airways. When you breathe think of your lungs and ribcage, the capacity they hold and the amount of expansion they provide; Air is the source and quality of life.There are three breathing patterns you should be aware of. Think of them in thirds;
Top third is apical breathing, is like a pump handle. One pump handle represents one side of ribcage moving up and down along a fairly vertical axis. Middle third is thoracic breathing, is like a bucket handle. One bucket is one side of ribcage. Bottom third is like caliper breathing it uses lateral movement of the ribs to facilitate a full lung capacity along with the diaphragm. One caliper represents both sides of the ribcage. With all exercises concentrate on how your body feels, don’t feel silly if you have to put one hand on your belly and the other on the top centre on the breast bone (sternum). To do this you may have to close your eyes and take exaggerated breathes to help you establish your breathing pattern. Never move to quickly after doing your exercises, get back up slowly and progressively from lying flat to sitting, kneeling, one-leg kneeling and progress to sitting in a chair then standing. You are your own best judge of this, but only if you are honest with yourself. If you feel dizzy then wait…there is never any hurry…slow is good!