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Be You Living Toolkit No:3 Mindfulness Practice No:1 Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly Breathing)

"Breath is life".

From the moment we take our first breathe, we are all born with the knowledge of how to fully engage the diaphragm to take deep breaths. Babies and young children naturally use their abdominal muscles to pull the diaphragm down for breathing. As we grow older and due to the stresses of life we can get out of the habit of taking deep refreshing breaths. Most people take short, shallow breaths into their chest and it can make you feel anxious and zap your energy.

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as "abdominal breathing" and "belly breathing" is a breathing technique that encourages full oxygen exchange - the trade of incoming oxygen and outgoing carbon dioxide. When you breathe in the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs contracts and moves downward.

This creates more space in your chest cavity, allowing your lungs to expand. Your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity.

Relearning how to breathe from the Diaphram is beneficial to our health as it activates our parasympathetic nervous system. Taking deeper breaths allows your body to slow down and heal by switching off fight, flight, freeze response in the body (stress response) and activating relaxation response in the body by slowing down your heartbeat and lowering and stabilising your blood pressure.

"Just Breathe".

Here's how to do it:

1. Get comfortable and set the intention of "bringing you to you" and your breath.

You can lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or you can sit in a chair making sure your back is straight with your shoulders, head, and neck supported against the back of the chair.

2. Gently close your eyes and place one hand on your upper chest (your heart) and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.

3. Breathe in gently through your nose feeling the cool sensation of the breath, letting the air in deeply towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise as you expand your belly.

Pause for a second.

4.Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through your nose feeling the warm sensation of the breath.

6. Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath. You can practice this for five to ten minutes, several times or whenever you need to pause and "re-set" when you feel the need to calm down and relax.


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