Asthmatics tend to breathe with the muscles of the shoulders and chest but not with the diaphragm, the muscle of the abdomen. This fills and empties only the top part of the lungs – it’s a type of breathing that’s shallow, inefficient and unhealthy. Deep, complete breathing is just the opposite. By learning to fill the lungs completely and to exhale fully with each breath, asthmatics can ward off wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Deep-breathing exercises followed for five minutes every day can reduce the need for bronchodilators and other drugs. They can be practiced lying down, sitting or standing.
1. Think of the chest and abdomen as a container for air. As you (or your child) breathe in through the nose, slowly fill the bottom of the container first and keep filling until the stomach feels puffed up like an inflated balloon. To be sure you’re breathing correctly, place your hand on the area just above the belly button. Feel your middle rise and fall as you breathe.
2. Exhale calmly through the mouth, as slowly as possible. The ‘container’ must be completely empty and the stomach flat before you slowly inhale once again.
3. Repeat. Inhale and exhale twelve times.