During times of emotional stress our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and affects a number of physical responses. Our heart rate rises, we perspire, our muscles tense and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. If this process happens over a long period of time, the sympathetic nervous system becomes over-stimulated, leading to an imbalance that can affect our physical health resulting in problems including inflammation, high blood pressure and muscle pain. Abdominal breathing helps promote relaxation, stress reduction, increased efficiency in stretching, and better body awareness.
Benefits of abdominal breathing
- Increases supply of oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body
- Helps increase the supply of blood and nutrients to muscle blood and bones
- Relaxes muscle spasm and relieves tension
- Releases and reduces muscular tension that eventually may cause structural problems
- Supports muscle growth and provides energy to get things done
Abdominal breathing technique
Breathing exercises such as this one should be done whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts or when you are experiencing pain.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
- After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth.
- Repeat the cycle.
The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen are only needed to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, they are no longer needed.
Abdominal breathing is just one of many breathing exercises, but it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become.
A four step relaxation technique
- Close your eyes if it feels comfortable.
- Be aware of your breathing.
- Do not try to control your breathing.
- Just let it happen and bring your awareness to the breathe in and out.
- As thoughts come ,simply let them go and bring your attention back to your breath
Step two :
- Lie down or relax in a chair
- Close your eyes if it feels comfortable
- Put one hand over your belly
- Bring attention to your hand and feel it move as your breath flows in and out
- Do not force any movement, just breathe
- If your mind starts to wonder, simply re-focus your attention on your breath
- Tune into your breathing at different times in the day, especially when experiencing increased pain
- Feel your belly go through one or two risings and fallings
- Breathe deeply and evenly when your prompts remind you
- As you go through your stretches, stretch to your pain-free end point, then breathe deeply through your belly and relax as you exhale. Focus on breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth. This will encourage maximal range in that stretch.