What are the ultimate stretches and exercises for the diaphragm muscle?
September 14, 2011 2:55 AM   Subscribe

What are the ultimate stretches and exercises for the diaphragm muscle?

At one Daoist yoga class I did a movement technique that really stretched the diaphragm deeply. Unfortunately, I've completely forgotten it.

I've searched the google, and found most of those stretches too basic..I need deeper stretches.

I want to do it to counteract extended sitting sessions, and because it felt really good after doing it before.

What are your best ways?
posted by Not Supplied to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is quite what you're looking for, but exercise-wise:

As a kid I did exercises for my asthma that mostly composed of inhaling and then exhaling through pursed lips. (in and out for 2 seconds each, then 4, then 8, 10, then back down)

The really tiring one was sitting straight up on the edge of your chair, filling your lungs, and then leaning all the way forward quickly while emptying your lungs forcefully (pursed lips again). Raise your upper body up slowly while refilling your lungs, then repeat several times.
posted by ropeladder at 6:07 AM on September 14, 2011

This is not a yogic stretch, but might be helpful -- from the world of singing:

While standing up straight (tadasana, but with your feet a bit closer together -- don't lock your knees), place your hands on your belly, one hand at the upper abdomen and one hand at the lower abdomen. Breathe deeply ten times, breathing into that lower hand/into the lower body. Exhale slowly each time (if you want, you can make a "fff" sound when you exhale).

Next place your hands on your bra line, thumbs pointing up. (If you're not a bra wearer, hopefully you can figure out where that would be.) Again breathe deeply 10 times, continuing to breathe low, but also noticing that your hands are moved out as the air fills your ribcage.

Now sit down on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and lean forward slightly with a flat back. Rest your forearms on your thighs. Breathe deeply 5 times, noticing how the breath fills your back body as well as your lower abdomen and side body.

Stand back up and place your hands so that your thumbs are pointing up and your little fingers resting on your waistline and your palms against the side and back of your body with your thumbs on your back at the tips of your ribs in the back. Five breaths here, again into lower abdomen, side body, and back body, and feeling the bottom tips of the ribs expand as well.

I find after I do this exercise, I feel a lot more limber in the diaphragm! HTH.
posted by pupstocks at 6:09 AM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just a note on anatomy from a pulmonologist: I suspect what you are stretching is quite unlikely to be the diaphragm, and much more likely to be the more superficial muscles and soft tissue that support the rib cage and upper abdomen. The diaphragm can be mobilized at it's attachments to some extent, by using non-diaphragmatic chest wall and abdominal muscles to expand the rib cage (try blowing out then expanding and contracting your chest without actually breathing in), but I don't think this will have an appreciable stretching affect on the diaphragmatic muscle in the same sense as one might stretch their hamstrings. Some muscles just don't stretch much or at all, passively. If you don't believe it, try stretching your heart.
posted by drpynchon at 9:21 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that is around parallel to the floor at the bottom of your lungs. When it contracts it increases the volume of your lungs downwards, hence the association with deep breathing rather than the shallow breathing you get when you lift your ribcage.

However, I can't imagine how you would stretch it.

You may have been doing something that stretched one of your sets of abdominal muscles. Assuming you mean abdominal muscles at the front rather than mainly at the side, that is likely to have been some kind of backbend. Camel? Wheel? Bridge? Possibly Fish.

As commenters above said, deep breathing exercises would get your diaphragm going but it doesn't sound like that's what you mean.
posted by kadia_a at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Stretches I don't know about. But to strengthen my diaphragm, my voice teacher had me bend backwards over a large exercise ball, put barbells on my abdomen (on top of a cutting board to distribute the weight), and sing scales. Hard scales, too. One was do re mi fa sol fa mi re / do re mi fa sol la ti do' re' do' ti la sol fa mi re / do re mi fa sol la ti do' re' mi' fa' re' ti sol fa re do, all on one breath. Another was do mi so mi / do re mi fa sol fa mi re / do-re-mi-fa-sol-fa-mi-re-do, on the words Mee-ee May-ay Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Ma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mumma Mummmmmm, also on one breath. HARD. Exhausting. Worked really well.
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. I'm pretty sure I'm talking about the diaphragm.
posted by Not Supplied at 5:52 PM on September 14, 2011

A variation of drpynchon's advice: paradoxical breathing. Lie flat, and as you breath in deeply pull your umbilicus (belly button) down towards your spine. If you do this strongly, the ribs will expand much more than usual. Or, take up a woodwind instrument - that will really get your diaphragm working, and it's fun. It will take many months, whatever method you use.
posted by nickji at 1:42 AM on September 15, 2011

Yoga teachers (or Yogis if they're more pompous) often go on at length about strethching your diaphragm, and I'm sure you believe them over medical doctors (who wouldn't?), but if you're not noticing an "involuntary" exhale/inhale when doing this, you are not stretching your diaphragm. It's pretty straightforward
posted by Patbon at 5:03 PM on September 15, 2011

Response by poster: OOoh snarky ;) I have experienced massaging trigger points in the diaphragm where it's accessible under the lower ribs which has a benefit for the unreachable ones further in. Working on the diaphragm causes unique sensations which were replicated by the yoga movement. Therefore, I think I was stretching the diaphragm in the sense that I was working it and stretching these trigger points in a 'micro' way rather than 'extending' the diaphram from it's position.

Furthermore, I can notice a clear difference in sensation in the breath and in this area now that I've been sitting in an office chair for long periods.

The movement worked by holding the breath in certain positions, with elements of twisting.

I don't personally find it unreasonable that it stretches the diaphragm in the sense I have given.

I am also familiar with other muscles in the region and it aint them.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:25 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks Nickiji
posted by Not Supplied at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2011

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