Sometimes our busy, crazy, hectic lives get the better of us and we forget to slow down. We have to-do lists with no end in sight, dishes piling up in the sink and that deadline at work approaching quicker and quicker. It’s ok to have a lot going on, but there comes a point where it feels like you’re about to burn-out. We’ve all been there!
Whatever we have going on in our lives, I think we can ALL benefit from taking a second to press pause, reconnect and relax.
What is Belly Breathing?
Belly Breathing is a breathing technique used to help relax the body and allow a good, healthy flow of oxygen to the brain all at the same time. When we are worked up, maybe feeling stressed or anxious, we tend to take more shallow breaths higher up in the ribcage. That’s totally normal. But when we Belly Breathe, we are drawing the breath lower into the diaphragm, which encourages us to take slower, more even breaths, it allows our heart rate to slow down a little and helps more oxygen find its way around the body. This all sends messages to the brain that it’s time to rest, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and sometimes that’s all we need.
How do I Belly Breathe?
The best position to figure out Belly Breathing is lying down on your back, however if it’s more comfortable for you to sit, just make sure you can relax in the position you’re in.
For the best possible moment of relaxation, make sure you’re in a place where you won’t be disturbed, somewhere you feel safe and totally comfortable. (But if this works for you on your break in the staffroom, just before you go into a dentist’s appointment, or between finishing the housework and picking the kids up from school, that’s awesome, too!)
Before trying to Belly Breathe, place one hand on your chest, and another on your stomach, and just breathe normally. Notice if you can feel one hand moving more than the other. Are you breathing more using the upper part of your chest? Or can you feel your diaphragm moving up and down as you breathe? Neither is right or wrong, but this is a good chance to check in with your body and really listen to it.
Notice the breaths you’re taking. Are they quite short? Or longer than you thought, now that you’re paying attention? Is there a pause between your exhale and your next inhale? Again, none of these things are good or bad, it’s just something to notice and be aware of.
Start to focus on the hand on your stomach, and draw in a little more breath if you have to, to start feeling that hand move up and down in time with your breathing. If this is something you struggle with to begin with, why not try taking a breath in for a count of four, and a breath out for four. This will slow down your breathing and allow you to draw more oxygen in to reach your belly.
As you breathe in, feel the oxygen fill your body with renewed energy, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. And as you breathe out, feel any stress, worry or feelings of being overwhelmed wash out of you while your belly relaxes again.
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
All breathing techniques take practice. And Belly Breathing comes more naturally to some than others, but really anyone can do it!
Don’t ever force your belly to move up and down – your breathing will take care of that, and your stomach will naturally rise and fall with each breath. The more you practice this technique, the more easy and natural it will feel.
After a few quiet moments of Belly Breathing, tuning into your breath and listening to your body, you may notice that your body might feel a little heavier, or your shoulders have relaxed down an inch or two. You may feel that your head is a little clearer, and your mind will feel SO much better for having switched off for a few minutes.
This is a great breathing technique to do whenever you feel like you need to. Your muscle memory will start to pick up on the fact that this position and this way of breathing means it’s time to take a second and relax, making it easier to recharge your batteries and face the day with a stress-free, relaxed attitude.