Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm is the largest breathing muscle.  It is dome-shaped and located at the base of your lungs and can be strengthened to increase breathing efficiency.  Diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as “belly breathing”) is the “correct” way to breathe and can strengthen the diaphragm to improve breathing efficiency, decrease oxygen demand, and also decrease stress and anxiety. 


  • Lie on your back with knees bent, or relax and sit back in a comfortable chair.  Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. 
  • Inhale slowly through your nose and count to 2.  As you breathe in, your stomach should move up and out.
  • Exhale through pursed lips (as if you were blowing out candles) and count to 4.  As you breathe out, your stomach should move down and in
  • Practice this technique for 5-10 minutes at a time and gradually increase the amount of time performing the exercise. 

For an added challenge to the diaphragmatic breathing exercise, you can add a small weight or a book to your belly.

Diaphragmatic breathing is just one of the many exercises our physical and respiratory therapists use to help individuals with pulmonary conditions self-manage their diagnosis. This technique is considered the natural way of breathing and should be adopted by all individuals, regardless of pulmonary health. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment to see how pulmonary rehabilitation can benefit you, call us today.

Dr. Rachel Long, PT, DPT