Belly expansion exercises, or diaphragmatic breathing exercises, are designed to help you breathe more easily and use less energy. According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, diaphragmatic breathing helps strengthen your diaphragm and abdominal muscles. These exercises are especially beneficial for individuals with respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and people who suffer from high levels of anxiety. The Cleveland Clinic suggests performing these exercises for five to 10 minutes three to four times per day.
Supine Belly Expansion
This belly expansion exercise is great for beginners; it will help you get the feel of the movement while lying relaxed. Lie on your back on a flat surface with a pillow under your head and your knees. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other flat just below your rib cage. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should move as little as possible. Contract your abdominal muscles, letting them fall inward as you slowly exhale through pursed lips. Focus on breathing into and out of your belly while keeping your chest still.
Sitting Belly Expansion
Try performing belly expansion exercises while sitting after you have mastered the movements while lying down. Sit in a comfortable chair with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. Place one hand on your chest and the other just below your rib cage. Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose, expanding your belly as your lungs fill with air. Contract your abdominal muscles and allow them to fall in as you slowly exhale through pursed lips. Keep your chest and shoulders as still as possible; all movement should be in your belly. Place a book on your belly to make the exercise more challenging.
Standing Belly Expansion
Practicing belly expansion exercises while standing is more challenging than the other positions but is more convenient. You can perform this exercise anywhere, whenever you need to relax or you're having breathing difficulties. Stand tall and relax your neck and shoulder muscles. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. Keeping your chest and shoulders still, take a deep breath through your nose and feel your hand on your stomach move outward. Squeeze your belly muscles as you slowly exhale through pursed lips. Your exhale should take twice as long as your inhale.
- Ohio State University Medical Center: Diaphragmatic Breathing
- American Medical Student Association: Health Hint: Breathing Exercises
- Cleveland Clinic: Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Anxietypanic.com: Diaphragmatic Breathing
- MayoClinic.com: Asthma treatment: Do Complementary and Alternative Approaches Work?