It’s never too late to breathe like a child

 

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.

Picture credit:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4140/4849481308_11e8905b54.jpg

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Clearly Composed April 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

This is such an important topic! Honestly, belly breathing has helped me in such a big way with feelings of panic and anxiety and if you really work on breath awareness it becomes second nature too. I love how you tie it in to aging because it just gives me another reason to keep breathing deep. :)

All the very best to you, Christopher!
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Christopher Foster April 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Thank you so much for sharing in this way Emma. I’m so happy to get this positive feedback from you and Justin re the importance of proper breathing and breath awareness. Yes indeed. Let’s keep breathing deep no matter what age we are.

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Justin | Mazzastick April 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Christopher,
I have a tendency to hold my breath when I am really into something or stressed. This causes me more stressful feelings. I began doing breathing exercises and it really does impact the way I feel.
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Christopher Foster April 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Thanks for sharing Justin. I’m exactly the same way. I think it’s almost hardwired into us to do this. Isn’t it encouraging we can take some initiative just as you describe. Good to share life’s journey with you.

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rob white April 28, 2011 at 7:45 am

What a powerful insight, Christopher. How easy to forget our original nature — we even forget how to breath! Just sitting at my desk now remembering to belly breathe is quite enjoyable. Thank you for putting me in the mind of the unlimited child within this morning.

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Christopher Foster April 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Thanks Rob. Good to be sharing the journey with you.

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Robin Easton April 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Oh my dear friend, this is such a wonderful post, as I too am learning to breathe more fully, and not just belly breathing but in many other ways. Which I think belly breathing can lead to. I am lately letting my soul and spirit breathe more fully, by giving them more space. It is a beautiful thing.

I also LOVED your precious post. It touched me profoundly.

Also, the photo on this post brought tears to my eyes because I feel it conveys a sweetness that is part of your OWN soul, Chris. I found that very reassuring, healing, and somehow “right”.

Hugs to you kind kind friend.
Robin

PS I hope you are moving toward spring up there in Colorado. :)
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Christopher Foster May 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

Robin, I apologize to you too for the delay in responding to your comment. But I have to tell you that when your comment dropped in my mailbox and I read your kind and loving words I was a very, very happy guy. I always feel very privileged and blessed when I hear from you. It was a cute pic of the young boy proudly displaying his belly wasn’t it?

Blessings and hugs to you too Robin. Spring here in Colorado? Well, it’s trying, but not quite what I would call real spring quite yet. I think maybe a shift happening last day or two though. But living here in the mountains we never quite know what each day will bring…a good score on the year round sunshine though.

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Sibyl - alternaview May 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Christopher: Interesting post and good technique. I think this is definitely something I could and should work on more :) Thanks for all the helpful tips.
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Christopher Foster May 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

Thanks Sibyl. Always so happy to connect with you. Have a wonderful day and sorry I was a bit late getting to your comment.

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Tess The Bold Life May 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I practice this breathing every time I become anxious. I’m sure if I did it all the time I wouldn’t get anxious!!!
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Christopher Foster May 3, 2011 at 10:01 am

Great to hear from you on this topic Tess. I think you’re absolutely right. As it is — I’m kind of in the same place you are…very glad the mechanism is there. I do usually spare 15 minutes every evening to practice it. Blessings.

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nel May 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

This ties in so beautfully with so many philosophies I have been reading recently. Whether you think of the breath as chi or prana or taking in oxygen and eliminating waste gases or whether it’s mediational or however you perceive this beautiful, simple practise, it is just so worthwhile and so rudimentary and yet we so easily forget. I am now leaving my computer to go and belly breathe – thank you for the important reminder. I am a newcomer to this site and from now on a regular. :)

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Christopher Foster May 25, 2011 at 8:55 am

Nel, thank you so much for sharing this. You’re absolutely right, this is actually a huge blessing when we remember to do it but it is also easily forgetten when we get busy. You’ve reminded me to take a few good belly breaths myself right now:-)

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Barbara Zarrella May 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Belly breathing is wonderful. It is calming, relaxing. I do it at night when preparing for sleep. Now if I can just remember to use it during the day when I need it! No one will notice and it just takes a moment for its effect to be felt… slowing me down, removing that stress from the moment. Tess seems to have it down pat. My turn to make it a natural happening.
Thanks
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