What is “Belly Breath”?
“Belly Breath” is the body’s natural rhythm for the exchange of vital gases within our lungs, brought about by the movement of the diaphragm. The really cool thing about the diaphragm is that it moves the rib cage which allows for a decrease of pressure within the lungs. This pressure decrease allows the atmosphere to push air into the lungs without any work from us!
So why do we choose not to use this great tool?
The answer is both simple and complex. The simple truth is that we have become slaves to stress. “Chest breath” is a fight or flight response to a danger sign. When our body thinks danger our breath becomes shorter to allow for quicker oxygenation of the large muscle groups in preparation to fight or flee. As adults, with a lot on our plates, we are in constant fight or flight mode. Basically we have forgotten how to breath under normal circumstances. The best way to understand is watch a baby! Notice when the baby is at rest, happy, playful the tummy moves up and down. Then, when the baby cries the breath becomes short and the chest moves up/down. This is our primal response; natural breath comes from the belly, stress breath from the chest.
Chest breathing, also known as, accessory breathing uses the muscles of the chest, neck and back, which are all inefficient in the act of breathing when compared to the diaphragm. The inefficiency arises from the fact that these muscles do not originate at the diaphragm therefore they do not provide enough leverage on the rib cage. A result of this inefficient breathing technique causes chronic neck and shoulder pain. The shortness of the resulting breath can lead to anxiety and stress. Use of “belly breath” allows all of this tension to be relieved. By using the diaphragm for its intended purpose our breath becomes longer, without force, and our body has a better exchange of gasses; more oxygen brought in and more waste gasses removed.
How to do the “Belly Breath”
Sit cross legged, shoulders down and back, spine straight; now take notice of your breath, do not judge, just be aware. Where is the breath; chest or belly? Is it short or long? Are you nostril or mouth breathing? With awareness place your hands over the belly. On an inhale through the nose expand the belly, feel your hands rise. On the exhale, through the nose, pull the navel into the spine to release the breath. Complete 10 rounds, then come back to simple awareness. Take note of how you feel; do you feel lighter? More calm? Is the breath deeper? (if it is more comfortable for you, you can do this lying on your back) Complete 10 breaths at least once a day for 2 weeks each time noting how you feel.