It is easy to intellectualize the need to breathe. Let us take a deep breath right now. Good :) Now, let’s take another deep breath and this time pay attention to where it’s coming from. What part of our body moved the most as we inhaled and exhaled?
Most, if not all, of the time we spend breathing comes primarily from our chests. When we take a large inhalation we can see and feel our chests rise as our lungs expand. This, however, is not the deepest breath we can take. When we practice to bring our breathing down even further into our stomachs we cultivate a more cleansing, grounding and fuller breath that can better nurture our connection to ourselves and the present moment.
To practice deep belly breathing let us find a stable posture to rest comfortably in. It can be helpful to place a hand gently on our abdomen so that our minds have a physical prompt to help focus our attention downwards. As we breathe in through our nose let us allow our stomachs to rise slowly. As we breathe out let us practice to keep our attention on our stomach and the sensation of exhaling. It can also be helpful to create a simple phrase to say so that our minds can stay present on our breathing.
Breathing in I feel my stomach rise high to the sky
Breathing out I feel my stomach sink down to the ground
Simply saying: rising, rising, falling, falling can be a lovely practice as well.
(The following is from: http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html)
18 Benefits of Deep (Belly) Breathing
1. Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins
Your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. If you are not breathing effectively, you are not properly ridding your body of its toxins i.e. other systems in your body must work overtime which could eventually lead to illness. When you exhale air from your body you release carbon dioxide that has been passed through from your bloodstream into your lungs. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste of your body’s metabolism.
2. Breathing Releases Tension
Think how your body feels when you are tense, angry, scared or stressed. It constricts. Your muscles get tight and your breathing becomes shallow. When your breathing is shallow you are not getting the amount of oxygen that your body needs.
3. Breathing Relaxes the Mind/Body and Brings Clarity
Oxygenation of the brain reducing excessive anxiety levels. Paying attention to your breathing. Breathe slowly, deeply and purposefully into your body. Notice any places that are tight and breathe into them. As you relax your body, you may find that the breathing brings clarity and insights to you as well.
4. Breathing Relieves Emotional Problems
Breathing will help clear uneasy feelings out of your body.
5. Breathing Relieves Pain
You may not realize its connection to how you think, feel and experience life. For example, what happens to your breathing when you anticipate pain? You probably hold your breath. Yet studies show that breathing into your pain helps to ease it.
6. Breathing Massages Your Organs
The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massages the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. When you inhale air your diaphragm descends and your abdomen will expand. By this action you massage vital organs and improves circulation in them. Controlled breathing also strengthens and tones your abdominal muscles.
7. Breathing Increases Muscle
Breathing is the oxygenation process to all of the cells in your body. With the supply of oxygen to the brain this increases the muscles in your body.
8. Breathing Strengthens the Immune System
Oxygen travels through your bloodstream by attaching to haemoglobin in your red blood cells. This in turn then enriches your body to metabolise nutrients and vitamins.
9. Breathing Improves Posture
Good breathing techniques over a sustained period of time will encourage good posture. Bad body posture will result of incorrect breathing so this is such an important process by getting your posture right from early on you will see great benefits.
10. Breathing Improves Quality of the Blood
Deep breathing removes all the carbon-dioxide and increases oxygen in the blood and thus increases blood quality.
11. Breathing Increases Digestion and Assimilation of Food
The digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen, and hence operates more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more.
12. Breathing Improves the Nervous System
The brain, spinal cord and nerves receive increased oxygenation and are more nourished. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body.
13. Breathing Strengthen the Lungs
As you breathe deeply the lung become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.
14. Proper Breathing makes the Heart Stronger
Breathing exercises reduce the workload on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen, is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in the circulation, thus resting the heart a little.
15. Proper Breathing assists in Weight Control
If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands.
16. Breathing Boosts Energy levels and Improves Stamina
17. Breathing Improves Cellular Regeneration
18. Breathing Elevates Moods
Breathing increase pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain to elevate moods and combat physical pain
Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches that our breath is our anchor. With our breath we bridge the mind and body together. So often our minds and bodies operate separately. When we’re driving our car our minds may be thinking about what to make for dinner or stuck on something someone said that annoyed us. This is very common. How often are we present with what we’re doing while we’re doing it? Maybe never? With deep, mindful breathing our minds and bodies have the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with one another, to become friends, and to be in relationship with the present moment.
What I most love and appreciate about deep breathing is that it’s a practice that we can infuse into any part of our day. Whether we’re sitting at our desk, on the computer, standing in line in the store, making dinner, or taking a shower we can come back to our breathing in and breathing out and shine the light of mindfulness onto everything we encounter and experience. Deep breathing is not dependent on anything other than what we’re doing right now.