Belly breathing is a fast, effective and relatively simple practice, which can help with feelings of anxiety.
Many people however tend to be chest breathers. When they breathe in their chest rises upwards. This is also the breath that people use when they are anxious, and so chest breathing can reinforce feelings of anxiety.
Belly breathing is the reverse of anxious chest breathing.
We weren't always chest breathers. When we were born we started off as belly breathers. People tend to switch to chest breathing as they grow up. Belly breathing is deeper and slower than chest breathing, and it can exert a powerful calming influence on the body.
The belly breathing technique
Belly breathing is relatively simple and effective, and can be learnt with a little practice. When you first try this technique do it from a seated position. Belly movements are more obvious when we are sat down, which makes it easier to learn.
You may find it easier to focus on belly breathing if you breathe through your nose with a closed mouth for both breaths.
Taking deeper breaths can also make you feel dizzy after a while. You can control this by making the exhale slower and longer than the inhale. Use a 4 count on the inhale, and an 8 count on the exhale. Also by making the out-breath longer and slower than the in-breath, you will naturally start the next in-breath by inflating your belly.
Once you are practiced and comfortable using this technique you will find that you no longer need to use your hands as a guide, and can instead rely on the feeling of your belly against your clothes, which means you can use it without drawing attention to yourself.
It is important when using this technique, you don’t reverse belly breathe, because this will tend to increase anxiety. Shrinking the belly on the inhale will force you to increase chest breathing, which can make feelings of anxiety worse. If you are finding the technique difficult to co-ordinate, you can simplify the technique by focusing on just slowing down your breathing, which will by itself exert a calming effect.
How effective is it?
About 90% of the people I have guided in the use of this technique have experienced a reduction in their feeling of anxiety, within 2 or 3 breaths. It is important that you set aside regular times during the day to practice, because this will not only improve your skill in using it, it will also help it to become a good 'habit'.
title photo by aga-grafik