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Deep Squat Benefits for The Diaphragm

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Let’s chat today about the practice of deep squatting and some of the health benefits that come from this movement. In pelvic health physical therapy, a foundational concept I have all of my clients practice include diaphragmatic breathing. In this post, I walk you through some of the strategies of progressing into the deep squat position and why you should emphasize this movement to optimize your breathing.

An Everyday Movement: Sitting in a Chair

kim demonstrating a sit to stand

First let’s start with a very “basic” squatting pattern - the sit to stand. This is a modified version of a squat but a great place to start if squatting is something you have difficulty with. One of the important things to keep in mind is that if we don’t practice squatting, we’re going to lose the ability to squat. With this being our normal strategy to sit down, practicing sit to stands is a great starting point when working toward the ability to perform a deep squat.

Losing the ability to squat changes the way that we breathe and limits our ability to perform a full diaphragmatic breath. We want to make sure that we are breathing into our rib space rather than into our upper chest to prevent use of our accessory breathing muscles. We want the diaphragm, or the primary breathing muscle, to be doing all the work because of the benefits that come from doing so.

To find out more about the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, check out my blog post here.

Accessing Full Range of Motion of the Abdominal Organs

woman practicing diaphragmatic breathing

Why should we care about our squatting ability or diaphragmatic breathing?

For starters, all of the organs within the abdominal cavity depend on the diaphragm for movement. So, if we are tapping into the diaphragm to breathe, we’re helping to mobilize all of the organs within the abdominal cavity. This includes the small intestine, liver, large intestine, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, the list goes on.

These organs greatly depend on the diaphragm because they can’t move on their own. The diaphragm’s mobility, and as a result, the rest of the abdominal organs’ mobility, promotes increased blood flow, lymph drainage, and overall improved health for your organs. If you're looking for ways to increase your fertility, optimizing abdominal organ mobility is critical. 

Check out my blog post here where I go into more detail on the benefits of mobilizing your abdominal organs!

Focus on Breathing When Squatting

woman doing a squat

Proper diaphragmatic breathing also supports the autonomic nervous system. If you’re not familiar with that system, that includes the fight or flight versus the rest and digest systems. Without the diaphragm moving, you will not have a healthy vagus nerve tone. This is the nerve that does many things throughout our bodies, allowing us to remain much calmer and handle day-to-day stressors in our lives. Learn about the impact of chronic stress on overall wellness in my blog post here. 

When you squat, you are actually taking away the body’s ability to breathe into the upper chest & shoulders, forcing you to breathe into the diaphragm. Focusing on inhaling and exhaling while squatting is called squat breathing. Breathing into your diaphragm is also going to support improved rib mobility, digestion, reduce anxiety & stress, and support issues of constipation. The diaphragm, in a way, sort of performs a gentle massage of your large intestines when you are optimally breathing. This optimal state of breathing has also been shown to support the management of autoimmune disease.

Squat Series to Maximize Your Breathing Pattern

Follow along with the gentle squatting series pictured below if you’re having trouble achieving a deep squat position. Incorporate breathing with these movements and take five deep breaths with each position to really tap into the diaphragm.

As you inhale, visualize the air filling up the abdominal cavity from the bottom up. Breathe air into the bottom of your abdominal cavity, or your pelvic floor, working the breath up into the top part of your abdomen resulting in rib expansion. Exhale is a very similar visual. As you exhale, visualize the air leaving the pelvic floor, lower abdominals, middle abdominals, and then finally the upper abdominals at the bottom part of your rib cage.

Sit to Stand

sit to stand

Yoga Block Squat + Wall Support

squatting on yoga blocks with wall support

Deep Squat + Wall Support

deep squatting with wall support

Exercise Ball Modified Squat

squatting on an exercise ball

Peanut Modified Squat

squatting on a peanut ball

Yoga Block Squat

squatting on yoga blocks

Yoga Blanket Squat

squatting on yoga blanket

Hovering Squat

hovering squat

When practicing squatting, make sure to meet your body where it's at. Start with a position that feels good to you and work your way toward a full on deep squat. The important thing is that you're doing it and you're breathing. Be consistent with this practice. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it gets and how much better you’ll feel.

If you'd like to follow along with the video I created for this series, check out the link here!

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic or have questions, feel free to reach out to us at 502-939-8564 or request a consultation here.

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