Bob Van Oosterhout

Additional Thoughts about Diaphragmatic Breathing
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Additional Thoughts about Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Diaphragmatic breathing brings the quickest results of all the balancing techniques. It also makes each of the other techniques much easier. (It is particularly helpful to practice it with grounding and Thought Focusing and before mediation). The main problem that people seem to run into is to forget to use it. After regular practice, it becomes our natural way of breathing and then, when stress starts to build again, it is easy to forget to use it. I would suggest finding a daily activity when you can practice diaphragmatic breathing. Establishing a habit of consciously practicing it while driving to work or sitting with one’s morning coffee, for example, helps keep it in our awareness.

Diaphragmatic breathing can be very effective during stressful situations. A good rule is to take two or three diaphragmatic breaths before responding. There are few situations where a 30 second delay creates additional problems and lots of situations where letting loose our first reaction can makes things a lot worse.

If there a lots of interruptions or distractions, taking a breath before starting a new task helps break the tension that can carry over from one thing to another. If I’m working in my office and the phone rings, I take a breath before answering. It clears my mind and prepares me to deal with something else. Its possible to be tensing up over three or four things at the same time if we jump too quickly from one thing to the next.

Although diaphragmatic breathing tends to be very relaxing, I don’t think of it as a "relaxation technique." Its purpose is to prevent and stop the build up of tension. Diaphragmatic breathing is a more efficient way to get oxygen into our blood stream and the heart and lungs need to work less for more energy.

Diaphragmatic breathing is not an aerobic exercise. It does not strengthen the heart muscle or build up our lung capacity. We cannot do diaphragmatic breathing during aerobic exercise since this activity involves stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system to provide energy to our muscles.

Some people have said they might feel "weird" practicing diaphragmatic breathing in front of others. (Personally, I think being stressed out is even weirder). I would suggest explaining what you are doing and maybe even teaching those with you how to do it. I would guess that most of the stress we get from other people comes from people who do not practice diaphragmatic breathing regularly. Imagine how much easier things would be if everyone practiced this on a regular basis.

If the diaphragmatic breathing is not effective or if it loses its effectiveness, it means that somehow the rhythm of the breathing has been disrupted. It usually means one is breathing too fast or irregularly, that there are pauses between breaths or that one is trying too hard. Regular practice helps to maintain proper technique. Once we start to breath this way normally (usually after 2 to 4 weeks of regular practice), practicing once per day is often enough to keep it up. Of course, if stress pops back into our lives, then going back to 6 times per day can help a lot toward keeping us in balance.