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Breathing Retraining: Diaphragmatic Breathing

If you watch a baby sleep, you’ll see the baby’s stomach rise and fall with each breath. Babies naturally breathe with the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle under the lungs). With chronic lung disease, you may start using your accessory muscles (a combination of muscles in your chest, shoulders, and neck) instead. Using more muscles takes more effort and makes shortness of breath worse. You can and should learn to breathe with your diaphragm again. Because you’ll be using only one muscle to breathe instead of many, you’ll use less energy.Woman sitting in chair with one hand on chest, other hand on abdomen, breathing through pursed lips.


  1. Sit or lie on your back so you feel at ease. (At first, this technique may be easiest to do lying down.) Inhale slowly through your nose. Count to 2. As you inhale, your stomach should move out.

  2. Breathe out through pursed lips. Count to 4. As you exhale, you should feel your stomach move in.



Try This!

You can build strength in your diaphragm the same way you do in any muscle—by working against resistance. Once you’ve mastered diaphragmatic breathing, try a little weight training! Lie on your bed with a weight on your stomach and do a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. Start with a lighter weight, such as a bag of dried beans. Work up to a heavier weight, such as a small bag of flour.



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