Do the Abdominal Breath when you’re feeling tension, stress, or fatigue. This breath relaxes you. A few minutes of deep abdominal breathing can help bring greater connectedness between your mind and your body. In essence, the goal is to shift from upper chest, short, shallow breathing to deeper abdominal breathing. Concentrate on your breath and try to breathe in and out gently through your nose. With each breath, allow any tension in your body to slip away. After you start breathing slowly with your abdominals, sit quietly and enjoy the sensation of physical relaxation.
Follow these steps to practice the Abdominal Breath:
Lie on your back or sit comfortably in a chair.
Place one hand on your abdomen just above your pubic bone and below your navel; place your other hand on your solar plexus right beneath your breastbone.
Listening to your breath, inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils — so deeply that your belly expands and you feel a wave of breath moving into the bottom, or lowest recesses, of your lungs. Get down to the bottom of your lungs with this inhalation, going as low and as deep inside your lungs as you can. You can feel the rounding of your abdomen in your hands such that your hands rise a bit and your abdominal cavity pushes upward. Meanwhile, your chest opens and expands gently as if your abdomen is a balloon filling with air evenly and equally in all directions.
At the top of your inhalation, find the point of transition where the inhale becomes an exhale. At the top of every breath is a point of passage, the place where the inhale ends and the exhale begins. Find that place within your lungs and pause a moment to notice how your breath gently begins to shift in a new direction.
To a count of six to eight (or more) seconds, exhale fully through your nostrils. Feel your whole body releasing tension and letting go. Allow your body, including your arms and legs, to relax and go limp.
Do ten slow, full Abdominal Breaths.
Try to breathe smoothly and regularly without gasping for breath or letting your breath out all at once. Let each exhalation roll out like a long, slow ocean wave. Remember to notice that transition, or turning point, at the end of each inhalation and exhalation when one becomes the other in a seamless transition. If you can manage it, try to get in a rhythm and practice the Abdominal Breath for 10 minutes.
The Abdominal Breath is very relaxing. It really works when done well, and for that reason, you may not want to practice it while you’re driving. One of Sherri’s students missed her freeway turnoff by three exits because she practiced Abdominal Breathing behind the wheel of her car. She was able to induce such a deep state of relaxation during her journey that she forgot her reason for driving her car. Be careful and, along with driving safely, breathe wisely.
If your breathing becomes too rapid, short, or shallow, you may start hyperventilating. And hyperventilating, in turn, sometimes can cause symptoms similar to those of a panic attack. Hyperventilating occurs when you breathe out too much carbon dioxide relative to the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. If you find that your breathing is shallow and you’re breathing in an anxious way, try taking an Abdominal Breath. Taking Abdominal Breaths helps you shift into deeper, more rhythmic breathing.
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