When you breathe deeply, air fills your lungs, causing your lower belly to rise. As babies, all of us naturally breathed deeply. As we grew older, many of us stopped breathing this way and instead began taking more shallow breaths, using our chest muscles instead of our abdomen. Gradually, this shallow way of breathing began to feel normal.
Belly breathing, also called abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, helps with stress and anxiety, lowers the heartbeat, and can boost energy and stamina. The key is the engagement of the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. When you take a breath, the diaphragm drops downward, making room for your lungs to expand as they fill with air. As you exhale, the diaphragm presses upward against your lungs, helping to expel carbon dioxide. In contrast, shallow breathing causes the diaphragm’s range of motion to be limited, which results in the lowest portion of the lungs never getting a full share of oxygenated air.
A daily breathing practice is a simple and easy way to begin retraining your body to breathe more deeply. Here are instructions for a deep breathing practice that is easy and can be done anywhere.
Sit or lie down in a comfortable, quiet place. If you are sitting, be sure to sit up straight.
Place one hand on your abdomen, just below your navel.
Take a slow, deep breath, and notice that the air coming in through your nose is moving downwards into your lower belly, causing your hand to rise about an inch. Relax your belly and in order to let it expand fully. Your chest will rise slightly too.
Breathe out through your mouth, or your nose if that feels more natural. Feel your hand fall about an inch.
Continue to breathe in this way for three minutes. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise.
Sources, and for more information:
How to Breathe With Your Belly, http://altmedicine.about.com/od/optimumhealthessentials/ss/Belly_Breathing.htm
6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less | TIME.com, http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/6-breathing-exercises-to-relax-in-10-minutes-or-less/