Diaphragmatic Breathing: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Diaphragmatic Breathing Definition and Meaning

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that focuses on conscious, deliberate breathing that fully engages the diaphragm, the muscle that sits at the bottom of your ribcage. This type of breathing is not only deeper and more efficient than chest breathing, but also promotes relaxation and improves stress management.

While diaphragmatic breathing and belly breathing are often used interchangeably, they aren't the same thing. Diaphragmatic breathing engages the diaphragm in a more active way for expansive breathing, filling the lungs fully in all directions. Belly breathing, on the other hand, is often used as more of a cue to relax the neck muscles while breathing, and it doesn't always lead to filling the lungs as fully.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise: How to Do It

The following exercise is often called diaphragmatic breathing. Here’s how to do it:

  • You can perform this exercise in any position (sitting, lying, or standing). For your first time, it’s best to start by lying on your back with your knees bent.

  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.

  • Inhale slowly for five seconds, breathing through your nose. You should feel your chest and stomach expand up and out into your hands. Your stomach should rise farther than your chest, and there should be minimal movement at your head and neck. 

  • Relax your jaw and exhale through your mouth. Breathe slowly, counting to five as you release your breath. You should feel your chest and stomach deflate and return to their original position.

Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing

Engaging in diaphragmatic breathing offers many health benefits, including lowering the stress hormone cortisol in the body, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, increasing core muscle stability, and improving pelvic floor function.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Hinge Health Perspective

At Hinge Health, we know the power of movement and exercise to relieve pain and get people back to doing what they love. But we know other lifestyle factors can play a big role, too. And that includes breathing and understanding the role it can play in recovery and pain management. 

Physical therapists often include diaphragmatic breathing exercises as part of their treatment programs, including in pelvic floor physical therapy programs. (You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.) It’s also something we encourage as part of everyday life. 

There's no right amount of diaphragmatic breathing you need to do, but it may be good to aim for a few minutes each day in the morning and evening, or whenever you feel stressed. Over time, diaphragmatic breathing can become second nature, leading to improved overall well-being. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Learning diaphragmatic breathing. (2016, March 10). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/learning-diaphragmatic-breathing

  2. Gallup, A. (2019, October 23). Stop and Smell the Roses. Urology Austin. https://urologyaustin.com/stop-and-smell-the-roses

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