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When you lie down to go to sleep after a busy day, do you ever notice that you take a deep, long breath and let it out with a sigh? That’s a great example of a belly breath (fully using your diaphragm). Although it sounds simple to take a deep, cleansing breath, there are many reasons why we don’t or can’t breathe that deeply. A few examples of why we may not be belly breathing on a regular basis: We’ve got a stomach full of food; we’re wearing tight pants; we’re trying to hold our gut in; we’re simply too stressed during the day. These reasons, and more, give us tightness in our belly -- that feeling that doesn’t allow our diaphragm to move easily, and doesn’t support or allow for deeper, efficient breaths. A simple exercise can take care of that though:
Belly Breathing Exercise
Step 1: Try to breathe in and out of your nose; it filters, warms and moisturizes the air.
Step 2: Lie down and make yourself comfortable. Slowly start to relax the muscles in your legs, hips, belly, chest, arms and neck.
Step 3: Start to bring attention to your breath, feeling yourself relax from the inside out. As you relax, inhale and allow your belly to rise; then slowly exhale and allow your belly to fall.
Practice belly breathing twice a day (about 10 breaths each time) for a week or so. Then build up to consciously practicing it more often. It should become second nature with practice.
The Benefits of Breathing Deeply
Breathing this way can help bring better focus and clarity by bridging your mind and body. It can also lower blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates, help to circulate more oxygenated blood throughout your body and release stress.
For more belly breathing and stress-reduction strategies or to read Cleveland Clinic Yoga Therapist Judi Bar's other wellness articles, visit ClevelandClinicWellness.com.