Breath is one of the few things that we cannot live without for more than a few minutes. It is quite literally, our lifeblood. It’s something that most of us don’t think about and take for granted unless there is a problem with our lungs or air quality. By utilizing our breathing in the correct manner, we can influence our nervous system in a positive way.

Most people have no idea that they are breathing shallowly. We have been so conditioned by our society to suck our gut in, and please don’t dare let it out or someone will think that you are fat. And put on those Spanx for goodness sake. Unfortunately, this is not good for the practice of deep, belly breathing. Most of my patients come in and are breathing up in their chests. Deep belly breathing dysregulates your fight or flight response. It helps you to slow the heart rate, cool the body temperature, relax the muscles, encourage space and blood flow in the pelvic cavity, promote peristalsis in the large intestine and calm the mind. It can be incredibly difficult for some to disengage their abdominal muscles to do this correctly and some even feel embarrassed just making their bellies large and expanded for fear of looking fat. Lying down can make belly breathing easier at first. I usually place my hand below their belly button and ask them to take a deep breath and raise my hand up with their in-breath and see it move down with their out-breath. With progressive inhales and exhales, each time should slow and become more natural and easier. Belly breathing can be consciously done anytime you feel stress. You can engage it in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, in line at a grocery store or while driving in traffic. It also serves as a reminder to clear your mind and concentrate on something other than your thoughts.

So next time you feel yourself getting anxious, close your eyes (if possible) and focus your attention on your lower belly. Take an easy breath in through the nose, expand your belly as the breath fills it like a balloon. Hold it for a few moments and release the breath out through the mouth as your belly gently contracts and flattens. Repeat.