I don't know about you, but I've been thinking a lot about my breath lately (and monitoring it for changes). The breath reflects our internal state and can be a great way to gauge how we're feeling in the moment. It's very common during times of stress to restrict the diaphragm, our major breathing muscle and breath more shallowly. Focusing on breathing deeply into the belly slows the heart rate and blood pressure as well as switches the body out of "fight or flight mode." Deep belly breathing also gives our organs a gentle massage which can help to regulate digestion.
Here's a simple how to:
1.) Lay down flat with a pillow or bolster under your knees.
2.) Rest one hand on your rib cage (heart area) and one hand on your abdomen.
3.) Slowly start to regulate and even out your breath. This can be done by counting in for 4 on the inhale and out for 4 on the exhale.
4.) Inhale through your nose, drawing the breath in deeply to the abdomen. Feel the expansion of the abdomen with the hand that is resting there.
5.) Purse your lips and slowly exhale out of the mouth feeling the abdomen contract.
5.) Do this for 5-10 minutes or more.
Checking in with your breath regularly throughout the day and using this tool to regulate it can start to train your body to breath this way naturally. This is also a great exercise to do before bed to settle into sleep mode and let go of the stresses of the day.
Amy Daws is a trained Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, and Chi Nei Tsang therapist. She is interested in the way that these modalities can bring healing and joy to people's lives.