Controlled breathing exercises can help keep your mind focused and body in shape, by helping to lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and relieve stress.
There are lots of breathing exercises you can do. It’s fun to experiment and see what suits you best. But you gotta start somewhere, right? The exercise below—belly breathing—is simple to learn and very easy to do. It’s the best way to start if you have never done breathing exercises before.
Belly breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and the abdomen. When it contracts it is forced downward causing the abdomen to expand. This causes a negative pressure within the chest forcing air into the lungs. The negative pressure also pulls blood into the chest improving the venous return to the heart. This leads to improved stamina in both disease and athletic activity. Like blood, the flow of lymph, which is rich in immune cells, is also improved. By expanding the lung’s air pockets and improving the flow of blood and lymph, abdominal breathing also helps prevent infection of the lung and other tissues. But most of all it is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation that results in less tension and an overall sense of well being.
Try this 6-step breathing exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
Try to practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times per day.