The diaphragm is a magical muscle.
It is here where proper breathing should occur. Air should be taken all the way into our belly so that our lungs can expand and the essential exchange of our respiratory gases can occur.
Inhaling air through our nose all the way to our diaphragm helps relax us and substantially minimize the likelihood of rapid voluminous breathing. And in doing so our heart rate slows.
By way of contrast chest breathing promotes rapid breathing which, in turn, quickens our heart rate and adds stress and tension to our neck and shoulder muscles. What an excess of energy is being produced even though we sit still!
Because I am aware of my breathing I am constantly amazed at how many people chest breathe instead of inhaling to our diaphragm. I have timed some people chest breathing at over 20 times a minute whilst sitting on a train. Admittedly many of those people were being stimulated by electronic devices such as iphone or ipod.
At rest normal breathing should be about 6 to 8 breaths per minute. Otherwise we are placing our body in a stressed situation which only serves to activate our fight or flight instincts.
I recently attended a Pilates class as I am receiving treatment for an old injury to my sacroiliac area (the lower back). I was shocked when one of the members of the class admitted to not ever using her diaphragm to breathe and to only ever inhaled as far down as her chest. She regularly suffered with upper shoulder and neck tension.
As a former chronic mouth and chest breather I rarely gave my lungs a work out because I ignored my diaphragm. This pattern of breathing fed and nurtured my sleep apnoea and produced many side effects such as anxiety and depression.
By changing my breathing so that I recognized my diaphragm I discovered an excellent ally in my battle against sleep apnoea.