Seated Belly Breaths
Stress and illness can affect how we breathe, impacting our digestion, cardiac and pulmonary function, nervous system and overall health. Luckily, we can control how and where we breathe in our bodies to change this.
Stress and illness can change the way we breathe, and though most of us are pretty sure we’ve been breathing alright since, you know, we’ve been at it for a while, what I want to introduce to you is the idea of noticing where your breath is in your body regularly throughout the day, and trying to consciously change that if needed.
Place one hand over your bellybutton and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and focus on feeling the hand on your belly rise. When you breathe out, the hand on your stomach should lower naturally, without a lot of effort. Try to keep your inhale and exhale the same length. You can put your hands on your low ribcage, and breathe the same way, thinking about getting that air not just in the belly but also into the back and sides, expanding like a balloon or a ripple in a pond. Again, try to keep your inhale and exhale the same length. Four seconds in, four out, or whatever feels like a good ratio to you.
Now notice what happens if you’re breathing into the top hand: look how much more motion and muscle activity there is. It’s exhausting! Air is still getting into the lungs, but it takes much more effort. So belly breaths mean we don’t have to work as hard to get air in, and they also activate a part of our nervous system that helps calm the body down. And if you hear your belly gurgling, this means you're doing it right, since these breaths act like an abdominal massage, promoting better digestion and elimination, among their many other benefits.
Note: If you find this challenging, try to perform the supine (lying down on your back) version to start.
Stacked breathing is a technique to increase the size of the breath you are able take in. It can also improve the strength of your voice and your cough, so you can better clear out the lungs, as well as your lung flexibility.