I have always believed that a strong core, coincides with a strong, healthy mind. Developing a breathing practice was my approach to developing a stronger abdominal center. I have, luckily, been breathing for a long time! In my bodywork studies, the breath is celebrated as our life force; it is the constant that we can count on in our ‘day to day’ here on earth. Why not get really good at it? That’s my theory anyway.
Practicing regular diaphragmatic or deep belly breathing has many health benefits, and is an easy tool for achieving optimal wellness. In fact, people who practice deep belly breathing as little as 10 minutes a day have a much less chance of developing cancer and heart disease, handle stress more effectively and generally have better overall health and well-being. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is one of the simplest yet most effective ways of improving one’s health with the least amount of cost and time investment.
Here are 5 of many benefits that come with practicing abdominal breathing:
- Reduces negative stress, anxiety, and even depression by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
- Slows the aging process by increasing the secretion of human growth hormone (the anti-aging hormone).
- Improves your mood by elevating the “feel good” hormone, serotonin, and other positive endorphins.
- Reduces the risk factors for heart disease such as lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), raising good cholesterol (HDL), lowing blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugars.
- Improves quality of sleep by improving stage 1 and stage 4 sleep cycles.
The best part of abdominal breathing is that it’s easy to do and can be done anywhere. The ideal time to practice is first thing in the morning and before bed time, which can also be a good time to visualize goals or set aside time for contemplation. Belly breathing is also essential for emotion regulation and is one of the foundations of DBT, which treats Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD.
Here is a step-by-step instruction to introduce you to abdominal breathing…
- Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.
- 2. Get into a relaxed seated position, with both feet flat on the floor.
- Put your hands on your abdomen.
- Close your mouth gently and touch your tongue to your upper palate and breathe through your nose. If your nose is blocked for any particular reason it is fine to breath through your mouth.
- Inhale deeply and slowly, being aware of your diaphragm moving downward and your abdomen expanding. Your hands on your abdomen will feel the expansion like a balloon filling.
- At the end of the inhalation don’t hold the breath and your abdomen will fall automatically as you exhale.
- Try to get all the breath out of your lungs on the exhalation. The exhalation should normally be about twice as long as the inhalation when you get relaxed.
Try it for about twenty cycles each and give yourself some grace if you find it a little boring or uncomfortable at first. Everything takes practice, even breath and especially wellness.