Belly breathing – Learning to use the belly
- Sit or lie flat with with one hand on your belly right under your ribs and the other on your chest.
- From this position, take one deep breath through your nose while letting your belly nudge your hand outward. Ensure your chest isn’t moving as this happens.
- Next, with pursed lips, breathe out like you’re whistling.
- As you feel the hand you’ve placed on your belly go in, use it to push out all the air.
- Repeat this several more times.
Why Belly Breathing?
- The lower half of your lungs is the thickest and most closely compacted, which means more oxygen can enter the bloodstream.
- Consciously breathing into the lower half of your lungs by engaging the diaphragm, literally allows you to ‘breath more life into’… you.
- Oxygenated blood travels to the heart, where it’s pumped to the rest of the body via blood vessels that move into surrounding tissues.
- Ultimately, oxygen reaches every cell that makes up the body.
- If your upper chest is moving when you breathe then you’re not using the lower part of your lungs, which means you’re not breathing optimally.
- Chest breathing engages only the top part of your lungs, and remember that the lower half of your lungs is the most oxygen-rich.
- If you’re breathing with your chest and not your diaphragm/ belly you’ll likely overuse your neck and shoulder muscles, which are not meant to be breathing muscles.
What are the benefits of belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing?
Diaphragmatic breathing has proven to:
- Improve respiratory function, by relaxing tight chest muscles and by increasing lung capacity. Research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing can be especially helpful to those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure, and is even recognized by the FDA in the treatment and regulation of hypertension. It also improves circulatory system function by maximizing the delivery of oxygen to the bloodstream and to each of the trillions of cells in your body.
- Maintain blood pH levels (the scale of alkalinity to acidity.) Blood acidity is neutralized with the release of carbon dioxide from the lungs. Deep, slow breathing helps the brain and lungs continuously optimize pH levels.
- Engage your diaphragm internally which in turn massages your abdominal organs and glands, stimulating them and promoting their healthy and optimal function.
- Boost the immune system because as the diaphragm massages the internal organs and glands it helps move lymph (fluid containing the immune system’s white blood cells) throughout the body to their targeted locations.
- Detoxify the body. Controlled breathing stimulates lymphatic movement. One of the key functions of your lymphatic system is to flush toxins out of your body. Your lungs are also a major excretory organ. With every maximized exhale, you expel waste, toxins, and excess carbon dioxide from your system.
- Maintain healthy digestive function and help ease upset tummies. The same diaphragmatic massaging motion that helps flush toxins also helps stimulate blood flow of your intestinal tract, ensuring your gut muscles keep on moving as they’re intended to.
- Breathing deeply can help prevent acid reflux, bloating, hiatal hernia, and intestinal spasms.
- Deep breathing also helps quell the stress response, which compromises digestion. It’s worthy to note here that multiple studies and research confirm a high correlation between digestive/ gastrointestinal issues (i.e.: IBS) and mental health imbalances such as anxiety and depression.
- Increase theta brain waves. Theta brainwaves are associated with the state of deep relaxation and dreaming sleep, as well as increased creativity, super-learning, integrative experiences, and increased memory.
- Be an effective relaxation technique. This is because your breath acts as a switching station for your nervous system, specifically between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system (stress response), and the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response.) Deep, slow breathing relieves stress and relaxes you, and also engages your sympathetic in ways that work for you, not against you. In this way, deep breathing helps send your body signals of safety so that you can enter into a higher state of functioning – one that is healing, regenerating, and conducive to sustained fulfillment and thriving.
- Be an effective option for treating emotional and mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression.