The Diaphragm Muscle

Diaphragm Muscle

Christine Wiese Anatomy, Torso Leave a Comment

The Diaphragm Muscle

What does the name diaphragm muscle mean?

The word diaphragm comes from several Greek words:

  • dia, which means across
  • phragmos, which means a fence
  • phrassein, which means to enclose

You could get the idea, then, that the diaphragm encloses something. It does, in the sense that it divides the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity.

Where does the diaphragm muscle attach?The Diaphragm Muscle Attachments

The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.
It has three openings: the esophagus, the inferior vena cava and the aorta.


It originates on the L1-L5 vertebrae, the lower 6 costal cartilages, and the xiphoid process.


It inserts onto the central tendon of the diaphragm. In other words, it inserts on itself.

What actions does the diaphragm muscle do?

The diaphragm does most of the work during breathing.
As it contracts it flattens, pulls on the lungs, and creates a negative pressure to allow more room for air to fill the lungs.

Poses where we may be more aware of the diaphragm muscle and breathing in yoga

Using the Diaphragm Muscle in Marichyasana C

In postures such as bound twists like marichyasana C, we notice that it is more difficult to breathe. This is for two reasons: 1) the abdomen is compressed during the twist which means it can’t push out as easily or at all; this means that the ribs need to move more during the act of inhalation, 2) the rib cage itself is under more pressure, it is loaded with tension from being stretched in the twist; this makes it harder for the ribs to separate and allow air in.

Using the Diaphragm Muscle in Urdhva Dhanurasana

In backbending postures such as urdhva dhanurasana, the abdomen is taut from being lengthened and the ribs are already stretched apart from the positioning of the spine. This makes it harder to inhale.

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About David Keil

david keil yoga anatomyThis website is simply about delivering yoga anatomy to the yoga community in a simple and understandable way. It has always been about you, the reader, understanding the complexity and diversity of our own humanness as well as our anatomy.

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