Practicing corpse pose can help your body learn how to relax.

Last week, I talked about the Yogic Complete Breath in Yoga Tune Up® Savasana and its affect on reducing anxiety.

In this section I am going to discuss proprioception, another major component of Yoga Tune Up®, and how it relates to the diaphragm and breathing patterns. The more information I absorb about the diaphragm, the less anxious and more investigative I become. It’s a slightly lopsided and unconventional muscle, which reminds me that I too am allowed to feel a little off center sometimes.

This essential breathing mechanism is a weird, asymmetric film nestled underneath the heart and blanketing the liver. Because of that, it is slightly angled, or as stated above, “lopsided.” The liver elevates it while the heart depresses it.

The diaphragm is a very difficult muscle to pull, as it is so well encompassed and attached. Its fibers attach at the central tendon, which then attaches to connective tissue around the lungs. This is why we are able to fill our lungs up like a vacuum. It also finds itself tethered to the inside of your lower six ribs, the first two or three of your lumbar vertebrae and part of the xiphoid process (that knobby end at the bottom of your sternum).

Proprioception refers to being aware of the body’s movement in space, but that awareness can also be used for movements inside of the body. Becoming aware of where things live within you, how they move, and what they feel like takes practice. Before we can be aware of what something feels like within us, we sometimes need to physically poke around a bit.

If you firm your fingers in around the inner edges of your bottom ribs, you can trace the diaphragm. It encompasses your thoracic cavity like a silk sheet protecting the lower body from the sun. It spreads across the front and back of the mid-spine, cutting you in two halves (top and bottom). You do not exist without it, and it does not exist without you.

So now we know that every breath is “diaphragmatic,” since each breath (deep and long to shallow and short) engages the diaphragm. The proof is in the pudding in poses such as Yoga Tune Up ® Standing Diaphragm-Based Backbend. This pose asks us to firm the ribs and punch in the Tubular Core as the sternum, cervical spine and upper thoracic spine arch into extension. The inhales here still flatten the diaphragm; just as exhales float it up. However, the focus is on the breath filling the chest more than the belly. Lengthening the spine in this way might feel like we shorten the breath. The fact is though, that while the diaphragm continues to party up and down, the ribs widen a bit more to expand lung capacity. This moves the diaphragm though we only feel the ribs move.

The same goes for all backbends: Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Baby Cobra, Danurasana (Bow Pose). We hold the lower body tight, slimming in the Tubular Core as the ribs widen, the chest lifts, and we obtain this “chest” feeling diaphragmatic breath.

We change the way we imagine the breath coming in more than we actually change the breath itself. Which is why when it comes to breathing issues that accompany anxiety, it’s important to remember that whether in Savasana, a backbend, prepping for a big presentation, nerve-wracking audition, or exhausting workshop, we are capable of breathing.

Liked this article? Read Change Your Breath, Change Your Health

Yvonne lives in NYC and is an actor, writer and RYT 500-Hour Yoga Instructor specializing in Vinyasa, Yoga for Kids, Yoga and the 12-Step Recovery Program and most recently Yoga Tune Up®. Her focus is on integrating Yoga Tune Up® into her Vinyasa, Hatha, and Restorative practices that include Meditation, Pranayama, and Ayurvedic healing and nutrition. She teaches an alignment based, injury preventative practice, that aligns yoga with individual health and wellness goals. Her private practice is based on the needs of individuals, to hear the concerns and fears of her clients to gently break down barriers and build a practice based on incremental growth and rejuvenation. Yvonne is a HUGE fan of props and bringing the asana up to you instead of forcing you into it. She can be contacted directly via her website at www.yvonnecone.com.

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Stephanie Gauthier

I will focus more on my diaphragm in the postures mentioned. Thank you yoga tunes up for all the technical guidance added in the postures to make them better.

Laurianne Gaudet

The diaphragm is so fascinating. The impact it has on the whole body and on our existence. As much as it is vital, we sometimes forget to use it to its full potential. Thanks for this article!

Genie

After reading this blog, I tried the aforementioned mentioned poses (at the end of the article) and focusing on the diaphragm and its role added another dimension to these poses that made complete sense.

Rosalynn (Roz) Adams

Breath is so important. It is the first thing we do after leaving the womb on our own. Enjoyed this blog. Answers many curious questions I have about my body.

Jacquelyn Umof

I loved the last sentence, that no matter what the situation is – we are capable of breathing, and what matters most is the way we think about our breath.

Alissa Trepman

This was a very juicy summary and description of diaphragm anatomy and how it applies to our movement practices and living in general. I look forward to trying backbends with tubular core as well!

Wendy Rodríguez

The article was very interesting because I had no idea that proprioception can be used for movements within the body to become aware of where the organs are located in our body, how they move and how they feel, although as Yvonne says, this requires practice. It is also very interesting to know about the diaphragm and “feel it” and to know how the postures where the diaphragm expands can help us reduce anxiety or nerves, just by breathing, even in the same Savasana posture.

María Kiekari

Learning about breathing biomechanics has helped me to reduce a lot of pain in my shoulder and neck. It Is amazing how by changing breathing patterns we can have a totally different experience of our body and mind.

Rob

Nice article !

Tubular core in backbending has been such a game changer in feeling strong and healthy in almost any backbend

Freia Ramsey

Your article was helpful in reminding me of the unique, quirky and brilliant way in which our bodies and minds are designed. That there are so many subtle intricacies and that “knowing” isn’t necessarily the best place to look for reassurance, but instead we can just feel all the feels and be with whatever arises.

VERA CEGLAREK

In addition to actually palpating the diaphragm as it connects to the ribs, visualizing the diaphragm in the mind’s eye assists in propriocepting the movement. I like to imagine my diaphragm as large as a parachute, simply floating upward then purposeful on its descent.

Melanie

I really enjoyed how this article discusses the tubular Core in any heart opener pose. often see students who splay the lower ribs apart in backends and do not seem to have integrity and abdominal support in the pose. I can appreciate how the tubular core will allow for better integration and stability.

Gen

I knew that the diaphragm was important for breathing, but I had never really thought about it during a pose like the camel. Thank you!

Suzanne

I have always leaned backbends as breathing poses; and I often tech this cue, but this gives a Little more “why” to the cue. Tubular core wins again. And it all comes back to the breath!

Fiona

Breathing, yes. I now know the right way to breath. I have always found myself holding my breathe when working out or when am stressed. But when I started working out with a personal trainer ,he noticed that right away. Then we started working on deep abdominal breathing. Which changed the way I now breath and l keep practicing everyday.

Jill

I was first instructed in a “diaphragmatic,” breath about 8 years ago and still feel like I discover and learn new things about it to this day. The breath is such a grounding gift that I took for granted for so many years.

Jill

If yoga has given me anything… it is the constant reminder that my breath is now. I always have it, nothing is more me in this moment. I am amazed at the simplicity of breathing’s ability to soothe or stimulate.

BEVERLYN

I love the connection between being ok about not feeling centered because some stuff inside of us is lopsided. The diaphragm and the way it connects so many things in the body is fascinating. Every breath is a diaphragmatic breath is absolutely right, how else could we breathe? I also really like the connection between how we imagine we’re breathing and our state of mind or the state of our nervous system.

Stevie

I love the way the breath is described in the standing back bend. The movement of the diaphragm is still there but the stretch emphasis has moved into the ribs. I just dig the idea of exploring breath in new poses while maintaining it’s integrity.

Carol

This particular technique is new to me. I like the internal visualization of tubular breathing and specifically moving the diaphragm, which helped me to go deeper on my inhale and “drop inside” after about 5 rounds.

Monica Afesi

I never knew the diaphragm was lopsided! It makes sense though. Love learning new things about the body. Thanks for posting.

Stephanie

I appreciate the visual explanation of the diaphragms action when in extension of the spine. The awareness of the diaphragm is conducting business as usual even when in unusual circumstances and seeing that the body has ways of modifying itself to stay healthy gives reassurance when trying safe yet “uncomfortable” movements knowing that my body is working to keep me alive and healthy.

Jackie Wolff

Another great post about the diaphragm. While I have a visual image of what it looks like as it moves, I realize how little I actually know about it’s placement. And I had no idea it was lopsided! Makes total sense but that had never registered. I always imagine it a perfect bowl shape! Thanks for the information!

Cynthia

I’ve been working on expanding my ribs for better breathing and this helps me understand better how to regulate my breath for backbends.

Markella

I never knew that the diaphragm is lopsided but it makes total sense. Such a good point too that we are changing our visualization of the breath more than the mechanism of breath itself.

marie josée packwood

Good to know ! I will do more back bends for anxiety

Karine

One of my teachers also mentioned that the diaphragm was like a parachute lifting on the exhale and lowering down on the inhale (pressing on the organs in the belly). It makes sense to me that we would be looking for a tubular core and therefore more of a chest breathing in a backbend in order to engage the abdominals, protect the lower back and bring the awareness on lenghtening the spine all the way up to the upper back/chest. Thanks for the enlightening explanations!

Edwina Ferro

Thank you for sharing! I too am fascinated about the diaphragm and interested in learning how it functions in my body. I enjoy the visual of it under my heart and blanketing my liver and being a little lopsided. I was not aware it was slightly angled. The diaphragm is why we can vacuum the lungs which I didn’t know because it is attached to the central tendon which is attached to the connective tissues around the lungs. This makes so much sense! It encompasses the thoracic cavity and spreads across the front and mid spine, splitting my top and… Read more »

Clare Kelley

Two questions: I have a friend who does this diaphragm self-release and feels nauseated. Any thoughts on that?

Second: when it comes to sensing internal sensations and internal movements, what’s the difference between proprioception and interoception?

Katharina

Thank you for describing the diaphragm and its placement in the body so well. I have been practicing Tubular Core and Uddhiyana Bandha for the last days in order to better understand my diaphragm and it’s movement during breath and breath retention. Your article helps me in understanding this further.

Rea

This is so helpful! Breathing is so important and it is good to understand how it can help us

Maki

Sometimes calming our thoughts, emotions, mind, and then letting go of the negative way of thinking are few of things we can just start with. Simple and kind reminder from a yoga teacher “to ignore the fact that the breath couldn’t complete itself ” was gentle invitation to calm the emotional body. Watching how baby breathe during sleep. We had forgotten how easy it can be. Relearning how to breathe deeply and effortlessly like a baby may seem challenging for some people. One thing I have learned from Yoga over and over is ” body is so honest” It is… Read more »

Shelby Williams

This was a great memory jogger of the ACTUAL shape of the diaphragm. I can’t wait to take a Breath and Bliss Immersion to really really embody the breath. Thank you so much, Yvonne!

Anne-Marie

I actually did not know that the diaphragm is lopsided! How have I not heard before now that it is asymmetrical. Thank you for the new information.

Pattie Makuta

Thank you Yvonne for providing us with many tools here to help us visualize, understand, and connect with our diaphragms! I also enjoyed that you pointed out how it is slightly “lopsided” and an unconventional muscle. Yes, we too can be accepting and even appreciate the parts of ourselves and others that we may perceive as slightly off or unconventional.

Resi

What a nice, clear and easy to understand article about the diaphragm! Personally I don’t have much expirience with backbends ( I’m a Pilates person 😉 but already in the first 4 days of Level 1
YTU certification I am more aware of my breath and diaphragm…

Amber Bilak

I’ve been thinking lately about our bodies’ innate asymmetries and how they affect our movements. Interesting to add the diaphragm and breath to the list of necessarily asymmetric movements!

xerco

our hip flexors are the engine through which our body moves. They control balance, our ability to sit, stand, twist, reach, bend, walk and step.
Everything goes through the hips.
And when our hip flexors tighten it causes a lot of problems in ordinarily healthy and active people, like us. so theres a list of specialised exercise that can help to strengh the muscle in that area and eliminate this problem. check it out https://bit.ly/2JtvV7L

Kat

Such a beautiful description of the diaphragm to give better imagery for the mind to really see how this amazing muscle connects to so much of our centre and a good reminder that every breath we take is diaphragmatic! Thank you.

Jan hollander

Live this article, very helpful as addition to the information I am receiving now that I am in the middle of ytu teacher trainer course.artical is very in-depth thank you

Will read more articles like this

Esme Lopez

Thank you for this article, you explain the function of the diaphragm very clearly. It is amazing to see that we can help ourselves just by breathing, that action that we do all the time but by doing in a discipline manner can be our healer.

Marsela Suteja

I enjoyed the in-depth exploration on diaphragm, especially when it’s pointed out that it’s relatable to daily situations: anxiety about audition, big presentations, etc. Everybody knows that feeling! It is weird but true that sometimes we have to actually poke a muscle/ an organ with our hands to feel it within our bodies.

cg ovalle

combining movement with breath and how it can make movements easier, this article was a great insight for me on the main key i was missing trying to move keep out. Will now take note of my own body and how i can help it live, move. breathe

Amanda

I love thinking about the anatomy of the diaphragm as I breath. How does my heart feel with I inhale and exhale? My liver? My back? My hips. Imagining everything in relation to one another working in symmetry I feel an intimate connection with my aliveness and the limitless possibilities for my existence!

Ashley Corlis

What an insightful article! The diaphragm is so overlooked and SO important!

Shelby Williams

This is so helpful in not only feeling the breath but experiencing it. The complete breath helps to bring me out of anxiety. Thank you for this article.

Morgan

It makes sense that I would feel breath more in the ribs and chest than the diaphragm with the tubular breath, since there’s a muscular constriction there that’s not possible with the skeletal structure of the actual lungs. I’ve felt that feeling of a shortened breath while doing hanging core work as well, even though my torso is lengthening.

Christina Klein

I really enjoyed your description of the diaphragm and why it is anatomically considered an vacuum. It is amazing what we are capable of by learning how to breathe properly to relax the surrounding structures including the ribs and chest. Im curious if there are any proprioceptive cues you could use to correct an funky breathing pattern along with these techniques.

Rea

Have been dealing with asthma attacks since I was a kid. It is really devastating, because not only you can`t breath, but you start to panic about not being able to breath and than you can`t breath even more. Like a spiral. When I learnt about breathing techniques, I felt very empowered – taking over some control of my own breath! Now when I have an asthma attack – I still have my inhaler near me – however when I visualize my diaphragm, and focus on filling the lungs up with air one inhale at the time, made a big… Read more »

Aleks Meuse

Always happy to hear ways to combine movements and breath. Becoming more familiar with breath, its tissues and movements is so vital to good health and movement practices.