Your diaphragm helps draw air deep into your lungs when it expands and
helps force air out of your lungs when it contracts. Many people don’t use
their diaphragm consciously because they don’t need to; in normal breath-
ing, a person may not even be aware of the movement of the diaphragm. But
when you have COPD, you have a hard time getting air out of the bottom of
your lungs, and learning how to do diaphragmatic breathing can help.
You can do this form of breathing lying down or sitting up. It may be easier
for you to do it sitting up, because lying down, especially after eating, can put
more pressure on your lungs and make breathing more difficult by removing
the assistance of gravity. If you’re more comfortable, use pillows to prop
yourself up in your chair.
Here are the steps in diaphragmatic breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position and relax the muscles in your shoulders
Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest.
Breathe in through your nose for a count of three.
You should be able to feel your abdomen expand, but your chest should
- Exhale for a count of six, contracting the muscles in your abdomen to
help force the air out of your lungs.
Again, your chest should stay still.
If you find this technique helps you feel more relaxed and less breathless, try
to build it into your daily routine. Two or three times a day, for twenty minutes
at a time, is the usual recommended schedule.
Breathing bending forward
Some people find it’s most comfortable for them
to take deep breaths while standing and bending
forward slightly. This position — standing and
bending slightly at the waist — may help the
diaphragm move more easily; bending forward
when you’re sitting actually may constrict your
diaphragm’s movement. You can try doing
pursed-lip breathing while you’re bending for-
If you have trouble with balance or equilibrium,
make sure you have something to lean on when
you try bending forward to breathe. Bracing
yourself against your kitchen table or a counter-
top or even the back of a chair can provide
enough support to let you concentrate on breath-
ing instead of worrying about falling.