Frequently taught as part of yoga practice, belly breathing changes the tone of the nervous system allowing someone to respond to stress in a more balanced way. While an infant naturally breaths this way, many adults have forgotten how. To remember you can practice the following:
- Start by thinking of the trunk of your body as a bottle, filling with your favorite drink – grape juice, sparkling mineral water, chocolate milk. (Calories are nonexistent in this image.) You fill the bottle from the bottom up and empty from the top down. Attach the same enthusiasm for filling your body with air as you would for drinking your favorite beverage if you were very thirsty. Many people’s bodies are starved for adequate oxygen. Know that each breath of light filled air is sustaining and improving your health. By increasing the amount of air in the lungs through deep belly breathing, you are better nourishing each of body with oxygen.
- Lie face up in bed.
- Place your hands or a small bag of rice on your belly.
- Inhale through your nose and push your belly out, away from your back.
- Exhale through your mouth, pulling towards back.
After you have mastered belly out with inhale and belly in with exhale (possibly overcoming years of encouragement to “suck in the gut”), you are ready to proceed to the next phase.
- Move one hand off the belly to the middle of your chest.
- Imagine that as the belly moves out, it is making room for the lungs to hold more life-sustaining air. You start filling the body with air from the belly up. First belly, then the middle of the chest, then the top of chest.
- As you exhale, empty your body of air in the reverse fashion. Air out from top, then the middle of chest, followed by the belly coming in to the back.
Once you have mastered belly breathing lying down, you can try it standing and sitting. While belly breathing is great to do early in the morning before arising and late at night before bed, it becomes even more effective in promoting well-being when practiced throughout the day. Link doing a belly breath with something you do at least 20 times throughout your waking hours – walk through a door, look at a watch, hit CTRL-ALT-DEL on the computer, answer the phone. Those of us reading this chapter are all breathing on a regular basis. The goal is to maximize the quality of the breathing we do.