Relax in a comfortable sitting position. Unclench your fists and turn the palms upward. Exhaling lungs completely by pulling your navel to your spine. Inhale and fill your belly like filling a balloon. Take one last sip of air, so your lungs are completely full. Exhale out completely again, drawing the navel to the spine, ensuring your lungs are empty. Repeat the process.
Feeling the pressure of stress at home, school, or in the workplace? You’re not alone. When worries and anxieties start interfering with your life–distracting you from tasks, making you short-tempered and cranky or adversely affecting your health–a simple meditation technique is here to help!
You don’t have to wander off into the forest, join an exclusive club or sit in an uncomfortable position to reap the benefits of meditation practice. It’s easy to do and it all starts with something so basic and necessary, we often forget it’s right here to use as a tool for instant natural stress relief–it’s called Belly Breathing.
Physiology Of Stress
- When facing danger, threats or confusion a part of the brain called the amygdalagoes into “high alert” and triggers the fight-or-flight response in the nervous system.
- Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream to prepare the body to activate quickly and respond to the danger.
- Your heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure rise; your digestive, immune and reproductive systems slow; you breathe rapidly from the upper chest–all this to divert energy and oxygen to your big muscle groups in preparation for fight or flight.
Triggers Of Stress
The stress response is certainly helpful if you are surprised by a coyote on the hiking trail, need to navigate a tight turn on an icy road or have to jump into the deep end of a pool to rescue a struggling child. If the amygdala is constantly activated by inappropriate cues, it can become hypersensitive to stimuli that may not actually be life-threatening–email alerts, cell phone notices, traffic noise, busy schedules, deadlines or financial woes. When common annoyances repeatedly trigger the stress response system, the symptoms of chronic stress are sure to follow.
You can’t avoid stress or make it magically disappear, but you can learn to manage environmental stressors and mitigate the body’s stress response through the simple natural stress relief technique of Belly Breathing.
Why Belly Breathing?
The “big secret” to relieving stress is no secret at all–you just need to give remind the brain that you are safe and secure, instead of activated and in panic-mode. You can signal the amygdala to deactivate by slowing your breath rate and expanding your breath’s depth.
Remember: You only take deep, slow belly breaths when you feel relaxed and safe (think of a sleeping baby–puffing her belly in and out, arms sprawled overhead–completely free from fear or worry).
We call this relaxation response the rest-and-digest state–your breathing slows, your heart rate comes down, your digestive, immune and reproductive systems come back online, your blood sugar and blood pressure return to normal.
Basics Of Belly Breathing
- First, relax in a comfortable sitting position. Unclench your fists and turn the palms upward in a posture of vulnerability–give the brain these cues that you are safe and secure (even if you may feel anxious and on edge).
- Breathe out all of the air from your lungs–exhaling pulling your navel to your spine.
- Breathe in from the belly–fill your belly like you are filling a balloon (or like that sleeping baby).
- Take one last sip of air, filling your chest so your lungs are completely full.
- Exhale all of your air, again drawing the navel to the spine, taking time to get rid of the last bits of stale air in your lungs.
- Repeat the process with your next inhale.
This is the first step in training the body’s relaxation response system so you can use it whenever (and wherever!) stress gets the best of you.