Breath is automatic and mechanical. But like any machine, your breathing habits can go into disrepair. Take a moment to notice your breath. Does your stomach expand as you inhale or do you breathe into your chest? If you breathe mainly into your chest, you may sometimes feel out of breath even when you are not physically active. In addition, those who consistently breathe into their chest often feel more nervous than those who practice abdominal breathing (Bourne). Chest breathers also have the tendency to be shy and nervous compared to abdominal breathers who are more relaxed and outgoing.
There Are Many Benefits Associated with Abdominal Breathing:
- Efficient excretion of bodily toxins
- Improved circulation
- Increased state of calmness and serenity
- Improved concentration (Bourne)
It is possible to retrain your body to breathe more deeply. Practice these simple exercises for about five minutes every day, and you will find that you will begin to breathe into your abdominals naturally.
- Breathe slowly into your lower abdomen.
- When your lower abdomen is full, move the breath into your rib cage.
- When your rib cage is full, bring the breath into your chest. As you bring the breath into your chest, your collarbones should rise slightly.
- Hold your breath for one or two seconds.
- Release the breath from the chest, the rib cage and finally from the lower abdomen. The breath should move through your body like a wave.
- After you fully exhale, you might feel the need to allow your breath to return to normal for one or two breaths before you repeat the exercise.
- Inhale slowly through your nose. As you count to five, send the breath into your lower abdomen.
- When your lower abdomen is full, hold your breath for an additional five seconds.
- Release the breath slowly through your nose or mouth to the count of five – you may extend the amount of time that you exhale. Many breathing exercises recommend exhaling for double the amount of time that you spent inhaling, in this case, ten seconds. However, you may need to work up to this.
- After you have exhaled completely, allow your breath to return to normal for two breaths.
- Repeat steps one through four. (Bourne)
By practising one or both of these exercises every day for at least five minutes, you will begin to retrain your body to breathe more deeply. In addition to practising these exercises, it is important to begin to notice your normal breathing habits. Once you become aware of how you are breathing, you will be able to make the conscious decision to breathe into your belly instead of shallowly into your chest. The more you practice abdominal breathing, the more quickly it will become natural to you and the faster you will benefit from its practice.