Deep breathing, also known as “diaphragmatic breathing”, involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion
of the belly, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation. This form of breathing decreases the rate of
breathing and maximises the amount of oxygen within your blood.
Benefits of diaphragmatic breathing have been investigated in association with meditation and is a core
component of yoga and Tai Chi.
Psychological studies have shown breathing practice to be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for
emotional enhancement, reducing anxiety, depression and stress. For example, a 30-session intervention with
a daily duration of 5 min can significantly decrease the anxiety of pregnant women experiencing preterm
labour. Another study suggested that a 7-day intensive residential yoga program that included pranayama
(breathing exercises) reduced anxiety and depression in patients with chronic low back pain.
The physiological mechanism of deep breathing involves the autonomic nervous system, specifically reducing
your sympathetic nervous system drive (fight / flight response). Physiological evidence has indicated that
simple deep breathing practice can significantly reduce blood pressure, increase heart rate variability and
oxygenation, enhance pulmonary function and improve cardiorespiratory fitness and respiratory muscle
From clinical experience, many physiotherapists find that deep breathing can also help correct posture, relax
neck and shoulder muscles, increase mobility in the thoracic spine and aid specific conditions such as neck
pain, low back pain or pelvic floor dysfunction.
If you would like to know whether deep breathing can help you, please come and speak to one of our
Physiotherapists, Pilates or Yoga instructors.