Belly or diaphragmatic breathing
Stress, poor posture, snug clothes, and habit are some of the reasons that keep us from breathing properly. We end up using our chest muscles instead of our abdomen and therefore breathing is more shallow rather than taking full breaths.
If you watch a new born baby you will see that they tend to breath from the belly as opposed to their chest.
What are the benefits?
Belly breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, is a simple deep breathing technique that teaches you how to use your diaphragm, a sheet of muscle at the bottom of our lungs and the most important muscle for breathing.
It can be used as a complementary therapy for anyone suffering from anxiety disorders or panic attacks and can also help to boost energy and stamina.
This is an ideal pranayama (breathing technique) to use at the beginning of your Savasana (relaxation section) in a Yoga class or to relax at the beginning of a massage. It is also very effective when coming out of Savasana to start to awaken the body and bring your focus back to your breath, the class and your space.
How to belly breathe
Sit in a chair, on the floor or lie on your back.
If sitting in a chair do not cross your legs, have your feet placed on the floor. If seated, sit with good posture, without rounding the spine. When seated sit up straight and imagine a piece of string from the top of your head, keeping your back up straight, feeling the area between your chest and naval lengthen. If you feel any tension come into the body, take a gentle breath and release it.
If lying down, allow the feet to rest out gently, arms relaxed with palms face up fingers gently curled. If you have any lower back problems bend the knees feet can be hip width apart or slightly wider and allow the knees to rest together.
Correct posture gets air into your lungs and helps energy flow throughout the body.
Try to calm your mind. Forget about what you’re going to make for dinner, emails you still have to send etc.
Don’t force it, just let go of any thought that comes in your mind.
Place one hand flat against the belly. Your thumb should be towards the navel.
Breathe in through your nose.
Allow your abdomen to expand, rather than your upper chest. You should feel the hand on your abdomen being pushed away from your body as your abdomen rises.
Start to count slowly.
Breathe out slowly and evenly through your mouth.
Again, count silently. Exhalation should be longer than the inhalation. If this doesn’t happen to begin with don’t force it.
Repeat the breath, slowly increasing the length of the exhalation (up to twice the length of the inhalation), in time you will no longer need to count you will be able to feel the rhythm of the breath and the difference in inhalation and exhalation.
When you first start practising this type of breathing if you feel light-headed at any time, you may be breathing too quickly, go back to normal breathing then try again.
As with any form or exercise or change of breathing routine you may need to consult your doctor first.