Deep breathing exercises are often referred to as pranayama in yoga, an ancient system of holistic health. Regular practice of deep breathing exercises can help tone the intercostal muscles, a group of muscles that form the chest wall, and the diaphragm, a thin muscle located under the lungs.
Deep Chest Breathing
Deep chest breathing requires two yoga blocks. You need to sit on the floor and place the blocks behind you – one in a flat position and the other at the medium position. You need to lay your shoulder blades on the flat block and your head on the other. Then relax your arms out to each side with palms faced upwards. Next, you need to stretch your legs out in front of you. Inhale deeply and allow your chest to completely rise. On the exhale, allow your stomach to fall first, then your diaphragm, then your lungs and finally your chest. Repeat this exercise nine times with a regular breath in-between each repetition. Deep chest breathing tones both the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles.
Bellow’s breath is a detoxifying breathing exercise which is good for the diaphragm muscle. To carry out this exercise you need to be in a seated position. Once comfortable, you need to inhale naturally through your nose. On the exhale you need to snap your stomach muscles in, forcing the exhalation. While in a seated position, inhale naturally through your nose. On the exhale, snap your stomach muscles in, forcing the exhalation. Repeat this breathing pattern for 30 seconds, gradually increasing the pace.
Intercostal Stretching Breath
To perform an intercostal stretching breath, come to a standing position and stretch both of your arms over the head. Inhale deeply and on the exhale, stretch your arms to the right, stretching your intercostal muscles on the left side of your body. Inhale and come back to the centre; on the next exhale, stretch your arms to the left, feeling your right intercostal muscles being stretched. Repeat two more times on each side.
Focused Diaphragmatic Breath
To perform focused diaphragmatic breath, it is helpful to understand exactly where your diaphragm is. Take your fingers and place them on the bottom of your sternum. Take a few breaths and feel your diaphragm move. To perform this breathing exercise, tense your stomach muscles and keep your fingers on your diaphragm. Inhale and exhale several times, focusing on the diaphragm’s movement. This exercise can help increase awareness of and tone the diaphragm.
Regular inspiratory muscle training can strengthen and condition the core vital muscle required to help us breathe each day. As with any muscle training always consult your GP for advice.