Deep Breathing

Breathe Deeply for Relaxation

Deep breathing (also called Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing) increases lung capacity and absorption of oxygen by the body.   As opposed to the shallow breathing that is common during times of stress, breathing in this manner signals the body that all is well and to relax.  Even one or two quick deep breaths can make a significant difference in helping you to relax during a stressful situation.

Deep Breathing Instructions:

  • Lie down comfortably on your back on your bed, a mat or carpeted floor.  Simply relax and notice your breathing for a minute or two.
  • Put your hands (one on top of the other) on your belly, with the center of your lower hand touching your navel.  Watch how your breathing responds.
  • You may notice that your belly wants to expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale.  Let this happen, but don’t try to force it.   Notice whether your belly or just the top of your chest is expanding as you inhale.  You want to allow your lungs to fill all the way from the bottom up.  When you breathe in this manner, your lungs/diaphragm push down on your internal organs, signaling your body to relax.
  • If your belly is expanding before your upper chest, you are belly breathing!  Now begin to breathe in through your nose (slowly and deeply) for a count of 4 and then exhale slowly through your mouth for 4 counts.  Be sure not to breathe rapidly as this can cause hyperventilation.  Continue to repeat this process as needed while relaxing or whenever you are feeling stressed.
  • If your belly seems overly tight and does not want to move as you breathe, rub your hands together to warm them and return them to your belly.  Gently press down with your hands as you exhale. Then as you inhale, gradually release the tension. Try this a few times and notice how your belly begins to open more on inhalation.

This simple breathing technique will have a highly beneficial effect on your breathing as well as your ability to relax and manage stress.  It is especially effective if you do it on a regular basis.  Remember that you can do belly breathing at any time  and though it’s easiest if you are lying down, you can also do it sitting, standing or walking.  It is an excellent exercise to use whenever you are feeling anxious or tense.