It's the muscle that extends across the bottom of the ribs and lungs and is integral to the function of breathing.
I think of it as an umbrella or mushroom that sits between the lungs and the abdominal organs.
When it draws down expanding into the abdominal cavity it creates a vacuum that draws the air into the lungs,
and when it moves back up, it pushes the air back out.
This is the muscle we engage in abdominal breathing, and if you get a chance click this link to see a simple, yet useful animation on Wikipedia. If you watch babies, breath you will see that they do this naturally. Unfortunately as we get older, busier and more stressed we tend to forget this, and there's this misconception that we are supposed to suck the air in through our nose, which uses the muscles of the neck and shoulders, and uses up a tonne more energy. So if you experience tension in these areas of the body, notice if your breath might be contributing to it.
If you breath through your mouth, this is a whole other story.
See if you can be more conscious of breathing in and out of your nose for a while.
So how can we stretch the diaphragm?
The way I am showing you in today's video is through a breathing technique, a pranayama, called the Crocodile breath.
This is a great pranayama if you are struggling to connect with the abdominal breath in your practice, as it really draws your attention there, and helps to loosen any tension in the diaphragm muscles so it moves more freely for you.
Why the crocodile?
As I mentioned in Day 7, many poses, and pranayamas, are inspired by animals or what the yogis saw in nature.
When the crocodiles were studied, it was found that this was how they breathed and it was thought that this may be the reason for their longevity in life.
The reason for this is that breathing in this way, works on the autonomic nervous system, which is made up of two other systems. The sympathetic nervous system, our fight and flight mechanism in the body, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts like a brake for the sympathetic/stress response. In particular, the abdominal breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is located at the front of the body, this turns on the "rest & digest" response,
that keeps the body calm.
You may have noticed this effect if you have kids and they have ever thrown a tantrum, if they end up on their belly kicking and screaming they tend to calm themselves down eventually.
Try it for yourself.
The breathing that is, not the tantrum.
Remember to check in with your breath before and after so you start to be more aware of the affects it has on you.
Keep calm & do the crocodile breath ;)
Look forward to seeing you tomorrow,