Stress Management Techniques: Diaphragmatic Breath

Sandi Anders, MDiv, RYT, CSC

Slow, Deep Breathing: A Critical Component of Stress Reduction

The first and most important stress reduction tool is "right under your nose" and as close as your breath.

When you focus on slow, deep breathing, the inhalation fills your lungs and causes your lower belly to expand as the diaphragm drops downward into the softness of your relaxed belly.

Diaphragmatic Breath Practice to Try Right Now:

Relax your body. Release any signs of tension. Allow your tongue and jaws to relax. Drop your shoulders away from your neck.

Notice your breathing just as it is. What is the quality of your breath?

Now, take a deep, full breath, allowing the breath to move all the way down into the lower belly.

It can be helpful to imagine that there is a small balloon in the belly. As you breathe in, let that balloon gently inflate. As you breathe out, feel how the balloon gently releases or deflates.

Take in several of these slow, gentle, deep breaths. Then begin to notice that there is a slight pause that naturally occurs at the end of each exhalation. Allow yourself to wait here without rushing to take the next in-breath. Let the next inhalation surface when your body is ready to welcome it.

Enjoy the soothing tranquility of the pause. Float peacefully in the silence between outbreath and inbreath, letting the breath happen by itself.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Tips

If you are just learning diaphragmatic breathing, it can be instructive to begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. In this position, you can more easily feel how the belly rises with inhalation and falls with exhalation.

You can also place your hands on your abdomen and let yourself breathe into their warmth, feeling how the hands rise with in-breath and fall with out-breath.

Another great way to find deep belly breath is to lie on your belly. When in this position, the only way you can breathe is diaphragmatically!

Finally, it can sometimes be helpful to let yourself sigh out loud with the exhale. Sounding is a useful way to let go of stress and tension.

Breathing Facilitates a Shift from Stress to Relaxation

Deep diaphragmatic breathing has a profound effect on the body. Just three minutes of awareful, soft-belly breathing can create a shift in your body from the stress response mode into the relaxation response!

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