Breathing from the Belly is a Game Changer

I use the cue, “breathe from your belly” almost every time I teach a yoga class. Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is a powerful way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and create a sense of calm. When you allow the breath to move beyond its normal shallow range, you directly affect your own internal environment. The parasympathetic nervous system helps to regulate stress, tension, blood pressure, sleep, digestion, immune function, hormones, etc. Most of us spend way too little time in this mode. Instead, we move through our days locked in the sympathetic nervous system (also referred to as “fight or flight”), constantly being pulled from one overly important commitment to another. Belly breathing is a simple and effective way to change this. And here’s the best part – It can be done anywhere. Practice at work, in your car, in bed, right here and now. Here’s how:

  1. Sit, stand, or lie down.
  2. Focus on softening tension in the jaw, neck, & shoulders.
  3. Relax your belly. We chronically hold here.
  4. Take a deep breath in, allowing the breath to fill the space of the chest and abdomen. As you exhale, relax the diaphragm. 
  5. Inhale for a count of 5, exhale for a count of 8. 
  6. Continue for 1-2 minutes. 

Pay close attention while breathing. You may notice a significant shift. For me, it feels like a wave of relaxation washes over my body. The deepest layers of the belly soften, the forehead tingles, and the brain relaxes. It’s as if my entire body takes a prolonged sigh. As you add time to this practice, the breath will slow down significantly drawing you deeper and deeper into this parasympathetic or relaxation mode. Here the internal organs get a chance to catch up on their to-do list (digest, eliminate toxins, heal, repair). Enjoy. 

shannon stephens2 Comments