Affairs of the Heart (1): Diaphragm

The 'heart' is in love with the 'diaphragm'. Come, meet the diaphragm.

Meet the ‘Diaphragm’

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle which separates the heart and lungs from the abdomen. It is located in the middle of your torso and is our main breathing muscle.

The Basic Practice

feel diaphragm move with “s” sounds

  • follow the above video or the written instructions below


  • better sense and feel this very amazing muscle working within you

posture set-up

  • come to standing or sitting up tall

respect your limits, modify where needed

Please know, it is okay if you don’t really feel the diaphragm move the first time you try this exercise.
Give yourself time and practice - it will come.


  1. blow out all your air through pursed lips
    • then take a nice gentle breath in and out

  2. gently inhale through the nose
    • then exhale with a long “ssssssss” sound to about the count of 8
    • feel how the lower rib cage expands
    • repeat one more time

  3. gently inhale through the nose
    • then exhale with 4 consecutive medium “ssss” sounds
    • take notice how the diaphragm moves with each “ss” sound by having hands lightly touching just under the ribs (location of diaphragm)
    • repeat one more time

  4. gently inhale through the nose
    • then exhale with 5 consecutive short “sst” sounds
    • really feel how the short sound moves the diaphragm
    • repeat three more times

Explore the Movement - belly breathing

  • Ideally come to lying down but can be done sitting

  • Place your hands on your belly.

  • Gently inhale and feel your belly rise.

  • Gently exhale and feel your belly fall.

  • Continue breathing this way for at least 6 to 12 breath cycles.

Everyday Living

Belly breathing is how a baby naturally breathes. Either watch a baby or recall how you have seen a baby breathe. Feel yourself breathing like that baby. Feel how natural, easy and rhythmic it is.

Yoga Practice

Belly breathing is one of the first basic breathing practices taught in yoga. It is also known as abdominal breathing and often confusingly referred to as diaphragmatic breathing.

notice what you notice with kind curiosity

Without over efforting (be natural; non-forcing) in your breathing, become aware of how your diaphragm is moving by:

  • lying on your back with a light book or pillow on your upper tummy (between belly button and lower ribs)

  • lying on your front with a pillow under your tummy for at about six breaths and then take pillow away notice the difference

Discover Amazing

The diaphragm acts like an internal pump in your body moving down and up with each inhale and exhale:

◉ As you inhale the diaphragm moves downward like a toilet plunger flatting out thereby pressing on internal organs thus the belly rises.
◉ This is the diaphragm contracting on the inhale.

◎ As you exhale the diaphragm moves upward retracting back up into the rib cage thus the belly falls as internal organs have more space again.
◎ This is the diaphragm relaxing on the exhale.

A highly functioning diaphragm muscle can move down and up a full range of 10 cms. This is not me! But over time we can improve the range our diaphragm moves. Every bit counts!!

With each breath our heart gets a lovely ride down and up on the back of the diaphragm which is one reason why the ‘heart’ is in love with the ‘diaphragm’ — it gets a free ride — belly laugh 🤣 ha 🤣 ha 🤣 ha.

Not only is the heart in love in the diaphragm so are our internal digestive organs and the lower back. With each movement down and up they get a nice massage. The diaphragm is our inner masseuse!

Discover this amazing movement and internal massaging action within you with each breath you take.


(the Light in me honors the Light in you)

keep moving, keep laughing, keep singing, keep being YOU

Thanks to Agnes Melax for kindly letting me film her as she led our German choir in this diaphragmatic exercise.

Thanks to Stefan Ritter for taking photos with the iPhone.

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Disclaimer: Be safe, know your limits and move wisely without causing harm to yourself. Information provided in this newsletter is for you to explore and discover how your body works. It is not to diagnose any medical condition. Please consult with a physician or physiotherapist if you have concerns.

Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, page 12-13

Leslie further explains that we are using the diaphragm with each breath. Whether we are belly breathing or chest breathing the diaphragm is being used. The real issue is whether or not the diaphragm is able to work efficiently, meaning how well it can coordinate with all the other muscles that can affect shape change. Yoga (and breathing practice) can help with precisely this coordination.