Belly breathing is a natural way to inhale and exhale, and it’s also a smart strategy to reduce anxiety and stress. Many people lose the mind and body benefits of deep breathing when they get into a habit of breathing from their chest instead of their diaphragm. The habit starts when tension prompts you to tighten your belly. A tight belly makes effective breathing difficult and encourages shallow breathing. The resulting shallow breath feeds your body’s fight or flight response and produces a cycle of anxiety.
Deep breaths keep you alert and awake throughout the day. Just a few moments of mindful belly breathing can help relieve stress. It brings you into a more relaxed composure. If you’re ready to break out of the circle and find some peace and calm, keep reading.
Give yourself some breathing space.
Chest breathing fills your lungs from the top down and actually limits the amount of air you take in. Breathing from your diaphragm fills your lungs from the bottom up and draws in more air.
When you tense up and hold your belly in, you don’t give your diaphragm room to move. You’ll want to relax so that there’s enough space in your belly for the breath’s movement. Here’s how to sample the effect of tension: If you pull your belly in toward your spine, you’ll notice that it’s hard to take deep breaths. When you relax your midsection, you’ll see the difference.
See how a belly breath feels.
Use this exercise to experience deep breathing. Sit in a chair or lie on your back. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Inhale deeply through your nose. Do you feel your belly lift and expand? Picture a balloon filling with air in your belly, and make sure your chest is not doing the work. Now exhale slowly through your mouth.
It’s common for adults to breathe ineffectively, so you may want to practice belly breathing if you are feeling anxious. Count through the inhales and exhales to make them even. Try it for just two or three minutes once or twice a day. You can also practice while you’re washing dishes or taking a shower. When you’re getting ready for bed, practicing belly breathing will help you calm down from the day’s stress. Once you’re comfortable with daily deep breathing, you can apply the strategy during workouts.
Belly breathing helps you exercise.
Belly breathing is a technique you can use during most forms of exercise from squatting and running to spin class and heavy lifting. Here’s why proper breathing is important when you exercise. Deeply inhaling and exhaling will help you engage your core through each exercise. The diaphragm is an important stabilizing muscle for the spine. Breathing from the belly strengthens that muscle. You can feel how belly breathing steadies your spine when you work through exercises like lateral pulldowns or squats.
You’ll get the benefit of moving more oxygen through the body to your muscles. This lowers your breathing rate and helps you expend less energy. At the same time, deep breathing energizes your workout and gives you the ability to work harder as you exercise.