What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Most people already breathe this way when they are relaxed. However, a lot of people take shallow breaths that do not engage the diaphragm very much. Diaphragmatic breathing uses the muscle called the diaphragm, which sits at the base of the lungs. When the body inhales, the diaphragm contracts and moves down. As the breath enters the lungs, the air pulls the lungs down expanding the ribs. The diaphragm then moves down and away from the spine. This is to allow the lungs to expand in all directions to increase capacity. As the body exhales, the diaphragm, the lungs, and the ribs relax back to their original shape. However, when tension or stress occurs in the body breathing becomes shallow only using a small proportion of the lungs and therefore failing to engage the diaphragm. This can be seen through the rise and fall of a person’s shoulders during breathing. This is called Clavicular or chest breathing.

Who should use diaphragmatic breathing

Everyone. Diaphragmatic breathing is crucial for every person who uses their voice. Especially, occupational voice users such as singers, teachers, childcare workers, call Centre workers, actors, media presenters, barristers, etc. These populations are most at risk of developing voice problems.

Why is breathing with your diaphragm so important?

Diaphragmatic breathing is essential for producing a strong, effective, and efficient voice. Our voice is integral to communication. It is expressive and can convey so much meaning. Our voices can tell others a lot about how we are feeling, who we are, and our physical and emotional health. When we use diaphragmatic breathing there is enough air to pass smoothly through our vocal folds without overusing any other muscles. This limits your muscles from getting tense and trying to force the air out, creating strained and weak vocalisations.

How do I breathe with my diaphragm?

  1. Make sure you are sitting or lying in a comfortable position
  2. Relax your shoulders
  3. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach
  4. Breathe through your nose. You should notice the air moving from your nostrils to your abdomen, making your stomach (diaphragm) expand.  Your chest should remain relatively still.
  5. Purse your lips, as if you are drinking through a straw and exhale tightening your stomach muscle, slowly noticing your stomach (diaphragm) moving downward.

Diaphragmatic breathing is not always useful as a stand-alone treatment for voice disorders.

If you or your child are having any voice difficulties speech pathology assessment and intervention is recommended. Please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology and speak directly to one of our trained therapists.


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