Breathing seems simple, right? It is something that happens naturally and is a part of our every second of existence. We do not even have to think about breathing, as it is a process that is auto-regulated. So, why would intentional breathing be something to practice?
There are several reasons that intentional, deep abdominal breathing can be beneficial for people.
- More opportunities for oxygenated blood to circulate throughout the body, so the body can work more efficiently and effectively
- Focuses energy on calming bodily responses
- Lowering of the blood pressure
- Slowing of the heart rate
- Dampening of the fight or flight response
1. Focus on the Belly (Abdominal Breathing)
Your diaphragm is a muscle that resides in your belly center and plays a very important role in breathing. When you inhale deeply, your diaphragm expands outward, filling like a balloon. On the exhale, the muscle contracts back toward the spine. The deeper the breath, the more the diaphragm with expand. You can practice locating your diaphragm by placing your hands on your abdominal cavity. Focus on how the diaphragm reacts when you intentionally breathe deeply.
2. Allow for a Slower Exhalation
Try inhaling through your nostrils for a count of 3-5 seconds and exhale through your nostrils for a count of 6-10 seconds. The slower exhalation allows for the full emptying of the lungs and also gives you a place to focus when engaging in an intentional breathing practice. If you focus on the count, your attention has a specific anchor.
3. Give yourself 5 - 10 minutes per day for practice
Intentional and mindful abdominal breathing can serve as a practice to address excessive worry, panic and serve as a path toward relaxation and stress reduction. Some folks choose to end their day with intentional breathing as the practice can assist with the winding down process at the end of the day. Other folks may choose to engage this practice when feeling emotionally overwhelmed or struggling with sensations often related to panic. The process of deepening the breath and allowing for the flow of life energy may be helpful to begin to cultivate a sense of feeling grounded and more peaceful.