One of the blessings life has brought to me in recent years is something called abdominal breathing.
I'm not an expert in this by any means, and it's quite possible that you know more about it than I do. But the physical and mental calm and relaxation that abdominal breathing can bring is remarkable.
Children breathe naturally through their belly
The basic idea back of abdominal breathing, or belly breathing, is this. When we are children, we do it naturally. But as we grow up, and succumb to the pressures and tensions of modern life, we forget all about it. What a surprise.
We begin to breathe mainly through our chest, and it doesn't work nearly as well. It is not nearly as relaxed or peaceful a process. In fact, in some ways it is a struggle -- a struggle that mirrors a larger struggle as we do our best to stay sane and fulfill our purpose and find happiness in a violent, unpredictable, changing world.
83% of Swedish adults breathe with their chest
A recent study in Sweden discovered that 83% of the adult population uses chest breathing, that is to say, uses only the top part of the chest when it breathes. Of course, this has various side effects. For instance, we have to take more breaths per minute, while at the same time we receive less oxygen and get rid of less waste products.
I can say with absolute conviction that even a small amount of effort and time devoted to "re-learning" how we used to breathe as a child is well worth it.
It has helped improve my blood pressure, for example. And if I'm facing a situation that I know will make me anxious, breathing with my belly helps me stay calm.
Mind you, there is a price to pay – you may have to set aside the idea that a hard, flat belly is somehow desirable
Instructions for abdominal breathing
Perhaps you'd like to look into belly breathing, if you haven't done so already? There is quite a good overview and set of instructions available online at eHow.com. Here are the basic instructions posted there by an eHow contributor:
1. Lie on your back in a comfortable setting. It's easier to practice abdominal breathing in a quiet environment.
2. Place one hand on your abdomen, below the rib cage, and one on your chest. Placing your hands on the abdomen and chest helps you focus on using your diaphragm while breathing. The diaphragm is dome-shaped and assists with breathing. It moves downward and upward during inhalation and exhalation. Our lungs expand and deliver more oxygen when the diaphragm moves.
3. Breathe slowly through your nose. Hold the air for 7 seconds. Your stomach will rise, raising your hand. The hand on your chest should remain still.
4. Exhale all of the air slowly through your mouth while counting to 8. Let yourself go while exhaling, and imagine your entire body relaxing.
5. Repeat this cycle four more times. This allows your body to relax.
6. Practice abdominal breathing twice a day. If you practice abdominal breathing often, it becomes a normal process, and you'll notice health benefits. Abdominal breathing increases energy and reduces stress and anxiety.
Yet another benefit of aging?
For me personally, becoming acquainted with belly breathing to the extent I have is yet another benefit and blessing of aging. Because I can assert with confidence that it helps me keep a buoyant spirit: “It’s never too late to learn to breathe like you did when you were a child."
Wishing you happiness and good health. Please dive in here if you have any thoughts you’d like to share.