Most of us know how to breathe… right? According to many experts we don’t. If you watch a baby take a breath, they automatically expand their belly first and then their chest rises- this is called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. Watching an adult breathe is almost the exact opposite: the chest moves and- if you look really closely- you can see their belly expand slightly.
Ok, that’s great but breathing is breathing, right? Wrong. When you breathe shallowly, it increases your heart rate and blood pressure activating the body’s stress response. This causes chest breathers to experience more anxiety and stress related conditions like hypertension, headaches, insomnia, and muscle tension. When you shallow or chest breathe only about two cups of oxygen enter the lungs, while taking a deep belly breath allows three or more liters of air into your system.
So how can we revert back to breathing like a baby? Simple. Take 5 to 10 minutes every day and follow these instructions. Before you know it you will feel more relaxed and balanced.
1: Sit comfortably in an upright chair. (When you are first learning, it may be helpful to lie down on the floor or a bed, which makes it easier for your abdomen to expand and contract with each breath.)
2: Rest your hand lightly on your abdomen, about one inch above your navel.
3: Begin by exhaling deeply and fully.
4: Inhale gently, expanding your belly as you do so. You should feel your belly expanding beneath your hand.
5: Exhale softly, contracting your belly as you do so, feeling it contract.
6: Now inhale slowly while counting five slow seconds. (Like when you were a kid: one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc…)
7: Pause for a count of two seconds then exhale slowly for a count of five slow seconds.
8: Pause for a count of two seconds.
9: Repeat the breathing pattern: IN for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PAUSE…. OUT for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PAUSE.