Do you know the secret that is shared by professional athletes, opera singers, martial artists, and Buddhist monks? The answer is so simple, it’s literally right under your nose. They all understand the importance of the breath; specifically, deep abdominal respiration.
Take a moment right now to observe your own breathing. If you are like most Americans, you’ll find that when you inhale the chest rises, while the abdominal area remains restricted. This is known as “thoracic breathing,” or breathing in the chest, and is linked to many illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and asthma.
The importance of the breath can’t be understated. You can go for maybe a couple weeks without food, maybe days without water. What happens if you stop breathing for even a couple minutes?
There are a few easy steps to begin changing your habitual patterns of breathing in order to facilitate your body’s ability to heal itself. These steps take you from thoracic breathing, which restricts the flow of circulation in your body, to deep abdominal breathing. The benefits of deep abdominal breathing are too numerous to list here; in a nutshell, it activates the relaxation response in your body, allowing the body to heal naturally. The best part is, you can start right now, and it won’t cost you a thing!
- Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable position. You want your spine to be straight, but not stiff. The idea is for your posture to be open to allow the breath to flow easily.
- At first, you may find it helpful to place your hands over the lower abdomen by the belly button. This will help you get a sense of how the breath is moving in your body.
- Here’s the key: Visualize a balloon in your stomach. When you inhale, feel this balloon gently expand and fill with air. You should be able to feel your belly expand with your hands. Then, on the exhale, feel the balloon gently deflate, and the stomach muscles move back towards the spine.
That’s the whole process! Here’s a couple tips to get the most out of this technique. First of all- RELAX. There’s no need to try to take as deep a breath as possible. Using too much force will tense up the muscles and actually make it more difficult to breathe deeply. Second, it takes time to change your habitual patterns of breathing. Regular practice is very helpful, especially in the beginning. However, 5 to 10 minutes a day should be sufficient. You’ll find that focusing on deep abdominal breathing for 10 minutes can make a huge difference in the rest of your day!
Nothing in this document is intended as a substitute for your doctor’s diagnosis and/or treatment. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.