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Anatomical photos to aid in diaphragmatic breathing

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    From the article: http://www.swamij.com/diaphragmatic-breathing.htm ANATOMICAL PHOTOS TO AID IN DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING The Diaphragmatic Breathing article on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2006
      From the article:


      The Diaphragmatic Breathing article on the SwamiJ.com website has
      been revised to include several anatomical photos that help to
      precisely show the location of the diaphragm.

      Following are the written descriptions that go with the photos.
      To see the photos, please click here and scroll down:


      In loving service,

      Swami J


      The biggest single problem in learning proper diaphragmatic breathing
      is in knowing where the diaphragm is located. The pictures below
      should help you find the diaphragm.


      It is common to see both long-time students and teachers of hatha
      yoga and diaphragmatic breathing actively moving the muscles in the
      abdominal (belly), thoracic (chest), and clavicle (the horizontal
      bones at the shoulders) regions and calling these muscle movements
      diaphragmatic breathing. Belly breathing, chest breathing, and
      shoulder breathing are simply not diaphragmatic breathing (people
      often report shoulder or neck pains which come from using the neck
      and shoulder muscles some 20,000 times a day in this way for which
      they are not designed). One of the main problems with all forms of
      breath training, whether for meditation or clinical reasons, seems to
      be a misunderstanding of the precise location of the diaphragm. If
      one does not know where to find the diaphragm, it is difficult to
      train oneself or others in proper diaphragmatic breathing.

      The greatest challenges in learning and teaching diaphragmatic
      breathing are understanding the location of the diaphragm, and that
      it is not the same as the abdomen or the chest.

      It would be of tremendous benefit if the many teachers of hatha yoga
      and yogic breathing, along with respiratory therapists, occupational
      therapists, counselors, psychologists, physicians, and other
      professionals would learn and teach proper diaphragmatic breathing.
      It is of tremendous benefit not only to seekers of deep meditation
      for spiritual awakening or Self-Realization, but also those only
      wishing to "manage" their inner stress.

      It is important to note that speaking of diaphragmatic breathing does
      not negate the many balancing and invigorating practices, which can
      be quite useful. Rather, proper diaphragmatic breathing forms a
      foundation for those other practices.

      See also the article on:
      Breathing and Pranayama Practices


      Figure 1: Locating the Diaphragm:

      The horizontal purple area in the right-hand picture below (Figure 1)
      is the location of the diaphragm. In the left-hand picture, it is the
      horizontal red area.

      On inhalation the diaphragm contracts and moves down, as the rib cage
      (lower thoracic cage) expands slightly outward to the sides
      (laterally). As the diaphragm moves down with inhalation, the lower
      thoracic cage (chest) also moves forward, but only very slightly.

      Upper chest does not move: The upper thoracic cage (chest) does NOT
      move either upward or outward. With proper diaphragmatic breathing,
      the upper thoracic cage (chest) remains motionless. Some will say
      that the upper chest muscles move slightly, but this is not true;
      such motion is an indication of insufficient training and practice.
      Lower abdomen does not move: The lower abdomen also does NOT move
      outward. Many people teach that the abdomen moves outward, but that
      comes from abdominal breathing, NOT from proper diaphragmatic

      On exhalation the diaphragm releases, and the lower thoracic cage
      (chest) naturally comes inward from the sides and front. Once again,
      there is no motion whatsoever in the upper thoracic cage (chest) or
      the abdomen. With conscious, practiced diaphragmatic breathing, both
      the upper chest and the abdomen are still. Along with practicing
      steady, smooth breathing, without any pause between breaths, there
      comes a natural quieting of the mind and the nervous system.


      Figure 2: View from Right

      The diaphragm is the large, oval-shaped object (item #20) at the
      bottom of this photo (Figure 2). The view in this photo is from the
      right side of the body. The right side of the rib cage, the right
      lung and the pleura (lining of the lung) have been removed for this

      Notice that the heart (#19) is resting on top of the diaphragm. This
      is one of the visible ways we can easily see how diaphragmatic
      breathing has such an intimate relation with the functioning of the
      heart. It is also interesting to note that the right vagus nerve is
      visible at the top of the photo (#13), as this nerve is critical in
      physical relaxation of the autonomic nervous system.


      Figure 3: View of Right Cutaway

      This view (Figure 3) is of the right side of the body, with only a
      portion of the right side having been removed. Part of the muscle
      tissue of the diaphragm is visible at the left side of the picture
      (#8) and another part of the diaphragm is visible at the right side
      of the picture (#20).


      Figure 4: View from Left

      The diaphragm is quite visible (#23) in this left view of the body
      (Figure 4). Notice the heart (#7, #10) immediately above the
      diaphragm. The left lung would rest immediately on top of the
      diaphragm, although it has been removed for this picture. It is clear
      how the diaphragm pulling down on contraction would cause inhalation
      by pulling the bottom of the lung downward. Exhalation would come by
      the release of that contraction and the resulting return of the
      diaphragm to a more upper, dome-like shape. The bottom of the lung
      would then naturally rise, allowing exhalation.


      Figure 5: Frontal View

      The right side of the diaphragm (which is the left side of the photo;
      #3 and #4) is shown in this picture (Figure 5). The heart is visible
      positioned on top of the diaphragm (#2, #3, #10, #12, #13).

      Notice the white inverted-v shaped bone (#5), which is the lower edge
      of the rib cage, defining the lower part (costal margin) of the
      thorax (chest). The rest of the rib cage has been removed for
      viewing, as have the lungs (it may appear that lungs are in the
      photo, but that is actually the back of the abdominal cavity). It is
      especially important to notice how the diaphragm is in alignment with
      the bottom of the rib cage, but actually is tucked nicely up into the
      chest cavity. With inhalation, the diaphragm muscle contracts, and
      pulls downward, which also draws the bottom of the lungs downward,
      causing them to fill with air. When the contraction of the diaphragm
      is released, the diaphragm naturally returns up into the thoracic


      Figure 6: Frontal View without Heart and Lungs

      In this view (Figure 6), the heart and lungs have been removed. The
      dome shape of the diaphragm (#11, #12, #26) is quite clear in this
      photo. As the muscle tissue of the diaphragm contracts, it draws
      itself downward, which also pulls the bottom of the lungs downward,
      causing inhalation. On relaxation of the diaphragm there is the a
      natural exhalation, as the diaphragm returns to its more dome-like


      Figure 7: Upper view of Diaphragm

      The diaphragm (#7 and #8) is seen here (Figure 7) to completely fill
      the chest cavity from left to right, and from front to back. The
      upper chest has been removed just above the diaphragm. The view is
      from above, looking downward at the diaphragm. Notice the striations
      in the muscle tissue and how these would contract in such a way as to
      expand the chest cavity slightly, allowing the diaphragm to gently
      pull the bottom of the lungs downward, bringing air inward for



      The two keys to proper diaphragmatic breathing are:
      1) to receive proper training, and
      2) to then practice every day.

      To set aside a few minutes in the early morning and a few minutes in
      the evening to sit quietly and do nothing but be mindful of breathing
      diaphragmatically is a very useful thing to do. A few more times
      during the day is even more beneficial.

      Breathe smoothly and comfortably slowly, allowing no jerkiness, and
      having no pauses between breaths. First, be aware of the motion of
      the diaphragm, allowing the upper chest and the abdomen to be still.
      Then, after a few minutes, bring your attention to the feel of the
      air moving in the nostrils. It is the cognitive sense of touch.
      Continue to breath smoothly and slowly, with no jerkiness or pauses.
      Continue this for several more minutes. This practice can be done as
      a complete breathing practice itself, or as a part of a complete
      meditation practice, where the subtler meditation follows the
      diaphragmatic breathing practice.

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