Proper breathing is slow, deep and rhythmic.
Deep means that the initial movement is from the abdomen.
When you breathe, the movement starts low in the abdomen and then moves up to the chest.
Are you shallow breathing?
To check your breathing, place one hand on your low abdomen and one on your chest and take a deep breath. What do you notice? If your chest rises up first you are probably using your neck muscles to breathe, not your diaphragm. Incorrect breathing can contribute to neck and shoulder tension, shortness of breath, digestive concerns, gastric reflux and heart burn and a failure to activate the vagus nerve which is a key element of the gut-brain connection!
Also known as calm breathing, this technique helps you slow down your breathing when feeling stressed or anxious.
Newborn babies naturally breathe this way, and singers and yoga practitioners use this type of breathing.
Why is belly breathing important?
- Our breathing changes when we are feeling stressed or anxious. We tend to take short, quick, shallow breaths, or even hyperventilate.
This tells our body to go in “fight vs flight” mode. It can actually make you feel even more anxious (e.g., due to a racing heart, dizziness, or headaches)!
- Calm belly breathing re-routes your nervous system, it shifts gears and puts in “rest + digest mode” where relaxation, circulation, digestion and healing happens.
- Belly breathing is a great portable tool that you can use whenever you are feeling anxious. However, it does require some practice.
Ÿ calms the nervous system
Ÿ connects the gut and the brain (via the vagus nerve!)
Ÿ strengthens lungs, thorax* and abdomen
Ÿ increases resistance to colds
Ÿ aids digestion
Ÿ clears up phlegm
Ÿ helps to lift low mood
How to Do It:
- Place one hand on your heart, the other hand on your abdomen.
- Inhale slowly through the nose, breathing to fill the lower part of the lungs, expanding the ribs and pushing the abdomen out.into your lower belly (for about 4-5 seconds).
- Hold your breath for 1- 2 seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your nose (for about 4 seconds).
- Wait a few seconds before taking another breath.
- Repeat 4-5 times more.
I recommend practicing 5 – 10 minutes a day. I love “book-ending” my day with this.
It’s a great technique to do when you are stopped at a stop sign, red light or standing in line. It actually aids in cultivating patience :)
Establish a rhythmic rise and fall of your abdomen, to promote regular breathing.
Try to breathe inaudibly after you have gotten the knack of deep breathing.
Concentrate on your breathing alone, with your eyes closed, if you wish. It helps to do the technique better and it is also a nice preparation for meditation.
Push your abdomen out as you breathe in and pull the abdomen in as you breathe out.
Try giving an extra as you exhale through your nose to rid yourself of stale waste-matter in the bottom of the lungs.
Avoiding slumping– for maximum efficiency the thorax* should be straight.
Sitting upright is usually better than lying down or slouching, because it can increase the capacity of your lungs to fill with air. It is best to ‘take the weight’ off your shoulders by supporting your arms on the side-arms of a chair, or on your lap.
*THORAX= the area between your neck your abdomen, basically your whole chest and vertebrae and lungs.