Breath flips the switch on physical wellbeing, improves the communication between your cells and allows for a gradual shift in your vibrational focus. A daily practice of listening to your breath allows you to progressively breathe resistance away, according to Esther Hicks, an author whose teachings on the Law of Attraction were the basis for the film “The Secret.”
Your breath regulates your autonomic nervous system, which creates and maintains balance in the body. But shallow breath, restricted to your chest and shoulders can throw your body into fight or flight mode. A common misnomer is that we should suck in our bellies when inhaling. Compressing the abdomen while breathing in and expanding it while exhaling is the opposite of what an abdomen would do during natural, instinctive breathing. Some call this backwards breath.
Belly breathing, where the belly rises during the inhale and falls during the exhale, allows you to increase the range of air you can take in because your lungs are bigger near your core than they are near your chest. With the exception of hot yoga where you are supposed to suck in to protect your spine and core with breath while standing at the beginning of class, most yogis, athletes and singers recommend belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing.
Your diaphragm, technically above your belly, is a group of muscles that inflates your lungs with oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. When you breathe into your belly, it moves in an involuntary way in response to the diaphragm’s downward and upward movements and to the expansion and contraction of the support muscles. Your diaphragm contracts down with a deep inhale, stimulating the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it sends a message back up to the brain telling you to relax.
In addition to sucking in, another common mistake people make when focussing on their breath is to breathe exclusively through their mouths. Mouth breathing can trigger a release of adrenalin, which makes your heart pump even faster and stimulates feelings of stress and anxiety. Instead of breathing in and out through your mouth, use your nose, at least for the inhale.
Pressure breath, a derivative of belly breath, is a deep inhale through the nose, a pause at the top of the breath and a forceful, almost whistle like exhale through pursed lips. This breathing technique is used by mountaineers to counteract the effects caused by decreasing atmospheric pressure as they climb higher and gain altitude.
Find a restful seated position or lie down on your back.
Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
Slowly take in air through your nose. The air should move downward so that you feel your stomach rise with your other hand. The hand on your chest should remain relatively still.
In addition to building up energy and increasing lung capacity, belly breathing improves concentration and enhances athletic performance.
It can regulate your body temperature – think of a cooling inhale, and a warming exhale. And it can give you a psychological edge – think of holding your breath at the top before you exhale to create a conscious pause.
After belly breathing for a few minutes you will likely feel your shoulders and your neck relax. If neck is the connection between the head and heart, it is only logical that breath can help you get out of your frenetic mind and make more heart based decisions.