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Body/Mind, Meet Your Diaphragm

Have you had difficulty breathing especially while being active or working out? Does pollen, smog or smoke from fires in your area cause you shortness of breathe and/or lack of oxygen to lungs? Is anxiety a problem in your life and is it manifesting physically? Is there a disconnection from your emotions or environmental surroundings?

More importantly, do any or all of these issues make you feel unmotivated, compressed or depressed? Do the paths towards your goals seem muddled or unattainable?

Breath is life!

In this blog I plan on introducing you to your diaphragm. Little is known by the casual body owner about the use and functions of one of your most unattractive (but mechanically gorgeous) organs of the body.

If you are one of my regular clients, we’ve worked on this area and you know how emotionally freeing this session can be and how the reconnection of the upper and lower body can make you feel whole again.

Many people experience the above and have a difficult time describing what this feels like. It may be easy to realize you are having a hard time breathing but what is the source? Is it from your lungs? Your chest? Your diaphragm?


If I ask you to take a deep breath right now…and hold it, how long do you think you could go? Towards the end of that time you’d grow restless, uncomfortable…panicked. What if this happened on a regular basis from pain, fear or stress?

When we have a tight diaphragm there is tension at our core. The diaphragm is the muscle we arrest or hold tight when we hold our breath, are frightened or when we are anxious and waiting for “the other shoe to drop”.

Because the diaphragm operates at the solar plexus it is at the very center of our body. The diaphragm is the pumping station at the core and in a sense the inner vestibule or gateway of what we allow into our body, our realm, our spirt. It sits below the heart and above our vital organs.

When the diaphragm contracts it becomes flat and it fills air in to your lungs, creating a vacuum that replaces that space with oxygen, that is the air we breath.

When the diaphragm relaxes it expands and pushes the air out as well as pressing gently on our organs. The diaphragm is the muscle that does the “pumping” for the air-bags (lungs) that go along for the ride…or not.

These powerful yet gentle movements created between this “volley” between lung and diaphragm are in continuous movement.


The diaphragm is the place from which your relationship with the outside world becomes internalized with your self. It's where you become connected to your environment. The diaphragm sits in conjunction with the heart at the heart-chakra where It is attached at the spine near the hearts aorta.

It is the place where we draw oxygen from the outside world into our lungs. Its rhythmic contraction assists the heart in blood movement in a symbiotic dance in which helps blood return to the heart to be exchanged and re-oxygenated.

This interchange and exchange with the outside world is an interaction between what we are experiencing and how we react to that interaction. When we are content we breath comfortably. When we exercise we increase the “flexion and release” of this muscle in a gentle contraction.


The Diaphragm muscle has a couple of openings in the muscle-dome; one in which the vena cava, which are large veins that carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart to be cleansed and re-circulated.

The other opening is for the esophagus to carry food to the stomach. If the diaphragm becomes very tight or is not functioning properly it can partially block the intake of foods or the release of gasses and other fluids that may need to escape. This could stress the heart considerably by backing up un-oxygenated blood to return for that wondrous process of giving back oxygen to the blood and body.

If constantly tight it’s evident to see how breathing can be affected and how energy can be slowed. It is also evident to see how our body could be potentially starved of nutrients causing pain to the body by acid reflux or heartburn.


The psoas is attached at the connecting point right behind the sternum and at the base of the ribcage, right along the vertebrae of the spine and under the diaphragm.

The other insertion point is at the inside, top of your femur bone, right at the femur head where it fits into your acetabulum (lower hip bone). This muscle is crucial to walking, climbing stairs and moving forward.

The psoas and the diaphragm are so intrinsically connected that one cannot function properly without the other. You cannot take a step forward without involving the diaphragm in conjunction with the psoas. Yes, you will still be able to breath, but if you were in a constant fixed state without movement or walking you would have some issues eventually. As with any other inactive muscles, the fascia would become compressed from inactivity and sitting. With no expansion there would be no elongation of tissue for the diaphragm to expand and operate fully. Your psoas would become tight, shortened and compressed.

It’s important to understand this relationship and the reason why good posture is important at all times. It is exceptionally important to maintain good structure and form while exercising.

Many yoga teachers can teach the importance of this relationship and many coaches in any sport can tell you why it is important to stretch your psoas and breath properly. I believe it is our own responsibility to understand their relationship to each other and how we can better utilize and strengthen both for a better mind, body and spirit.


I highly suggest this type of focused bodywork for the end of the year at the holidays. Not only can the pressures of the year bear down on you but the stress of the season can be exhausting--especially for those of you at this time of year who live in fire affected areas, the primal fear and anxiety of smoke can be devastating to your your body and mind. Taking in clean oxygen may be difficult enough at this time of year when the Santa Ana winds roll in but this year they may bring with them toxic ashes and smoke.

Let's set up a formal introduction with a bodywork session for you to meet your diaphragm. I'd love to help you strengthen your core and illuminate this deeply profound connection by balancing your body in conjunction with other vital muscles. You will be able to feel more whole, exercise more optimally and think more clearly. You can also find a better connection to your own feelings.


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