Proper breathing is essential to keep us alive and functioning well. However, many of us don’t breathe as efficiently as we could. When one is feeling stressed or anxious, we tend to shift from belly/diaphragmatic breathing (parasympathetic state), into chest/accessory breathing (sympathetic state). Diaphragmatic breathing puts your body into a state of “rest and digest”, which can aid in better sleep, increase relaxation, increase performance, and aid in a quicker recovery. Chest breathing can put you into a sympathetic, or “fight or flight” mode – which can increase cortisol and stress and in turn decrease your immune system making you more susceptible to illnesses.
Here is a simple technique that you can try at home:
Start by lying on the floor on your stomach, arms above your head supporting your forehead so you have room to breathe
Inhale through the nose for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, slowly exhale for 10 seconds, and hold your breath for 5 more seconds.This ratio of 1:1:2:1: is taken from a yoga technique of pranayama breathing. Increase the ratio as you get better at it, or try 1:2:3:1 ratio if you’d like a challenge.
As you inhale, push your belly into the floor, and push your breath down in the direction of your pelvic floor/toes so that you feel like you are “bearing down” at the end of your inhale. You may feel some movement/pressure in your sacral/pelvic area – this is good.
Your traps or chest shouldn’t move much, as we want the breath to move your diaphragm down to let your lower ribs expand and your lower lungs to fill up with more air to get in more oxygen.
It’s best to do this in a safe space, such as a quiet and calming area to you, so that you can really focus on your breath and clear your mind.