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Breathing is of course a life fundamental. But taking time out to establish a slow and deep pattern is important both physically and mentally. It can accompany all the other natural healing techniques. Children belly breath naturally until they are about two years old. After that they may start to bring tension into their natural rhythm and over time many will limit their chest capacity and begin upper chest breathing. Most adults find they need to realign with their original innate and natural breathing rhythm. They may however discover that they still belly breath easily while sleeping. Years of poor posture, worry, fear and drama have reduced many adults to using only the upper part of their chest so that each breath is now shallow and restricted. But the ribs are connected to the abdomen by a strong band of tissue. This design is because each complete breath is intended to be deep, strong and expansive. Learning to belly breath is essential for meaningful relaxation and for managing conditions such as stress, asthma and depression.
You can practise when lying down in a warm place or by sitting comfortably in an upright chair, or simply stand in a relaxed manner with your shoulders relaxed.
- Gently become aware of your breath. So that you recognise more completely the rise and fall of both chest and belly you can exaggerate one part. Push out your tummy as if it were a balloon over the next few inhalations and see if you can get a sense of the connection (or lack of it) between your chest and tummy.
- Now do the opposite: as you inhale, become aware of the size of your entire rib cage; it is one of the largest spaces in your body. If you use only the top part of your lungs for breathing then the lower part, your back and the sides of the rib cage will not be so willing to expand. Remember that you have ribs that circulate around you and you want to gain this sense of roundness when you practise.
- Now ask yourself “Did I tuck my tummy IN when I inhaled?” The chances are that you did. You need to unlearn this habit so that, as the in breath opens your ribs, it is also permitted to open out your belly.
- Belly breathing simply links the abdomen to the chest. When you inhale correctly the entire rib cage opens out in all directions first. And because the big muscle of the diaphragm is attached to the bottom of the rib cage it also flattens and allows the belly to expand. When you exhale the process is reversed.
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Keep your jaw and face relaxed.
- Do this continuously for two minutes.
- Slowly build up your time; as you do so, you will start to find that exhaling takes longer than inhaling. You can focus on this to help deepen the focus and relaxation that correct breathing creates. Try inhaling to a count of 6 and exhaling to a count of 12.
- Sometimes you can feel a little tired or even dizzy after breathing so deeply, so take your time and breathe 'normally', before attempting to move around again.