The Diaphragm: The Muscle of Life


You can go without water and food for extended periods of time (you may not be healthy) but there is one substance that you need that no one can deny. That is air. You need breath in your lungs to be able to survive which is why: prana- means life force and pranayama (breathing exercises) mean extension of the life force (breath).



Main breathing muscle that helps us with life force… you guessed it the diaphragm. This muscle is used and abused over 20,000 times a day and most of us know very little if anything about it. Unfortunately most of us also use it in the incorrect way. So let me outline it for you. The diaphragm is a dome shaped/ umbrella like muscles that separates the upper and lower thoracic cavities. This is quite the muscle in and of itself as it has a completely unique shape. The origin of the muscles is in the lower 6 thoracic ribs and upper 2 or 3 lumbar vertebrae as well as the inner part of the xiphoid process. Its insertion is the central tendon. It also affects the psoas and Quadratus Lumborum so it really affects the top and bottom part of the body. According to the Trail guide by Andrew Biel

“The heart is directly affected by the motion of the diaphragm. As the hearts fibrous pericardium is attached to the diaphragm’s central tendon by ligaments, the hearts literally rides up and down on the diaphragm as you breathe”

So isn’t it time to start taking better care of this muscle? In any form of yoga weather Yoga Tune-Up ® or other, Yogis focus on breath. So this muscle is utilized in one way or another, in any pose especially when the breathing is controlled. Any form of pranayama will work this muscle (yay yoga!) but there is a specific pose that increase our ability for mobility within the diaphragm. One of the most accessible ways to work on this muscle is through a yogic practice called Uddihyana or abdominal vacuum.

A quick step by step run through:

If you are pregnant do not do this practice! If you have any anxiety when you hold your breath try working with a bit of a more gentle breathing exercise and then work your way up to Uddihyana which is an intense diaphragm massage.

  • Stand with feet hip’s width apart stacked under the lungs and outside edges parallel (you may feel like you’re pigeon toed… you’re not)
  • Take a deep inhale and then come into a bent leg forward fold as you forcefully exhale all of the breath from your lungs.
  • Come to a flat back with the help of your arms on your thighs, tucking the chin to engage the throat lock.
  • Lift the belly up and in with the help of an abdominal vacuum (kind of like you are inhaling without actually doing so).
  • Hold for a few seconds and try to lengthen the time as you practice more.
  • Make sure to release the vacuum before taking a breath in and standing up.
  • If you are feeling really adventurous you can also hold the breath at the top of the inhale called Abhyantara Kumbhaka.
  • And then repeat a few times to help strengthen that breathing muscle!

Here is a great YouTube video by Yoga Journal!

Go on work that breath yogi you can’t live without it! This will help you regulate your rest and digest portion of your nervous system so your body can relax and do basically all of its day to day activities with more ease. What’s your favorite way to work out the diaphragm?! How do you work your breathing? Let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail at to start a conversation!

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