Why We Should All Try Belly Breathing
Belly breathing – also known as diaphragm breathing or abdominal breathing – is a deep breathing exercise that is designed to strengthen your diaphragm.
This breathing technique is the basis for a number of meditation and relaxation techniques – including the techniques used in our seventh digital classroom Deep Breath – and has a variety of benefits that can benefit your entire body.
What is belly breathing?
There are simple steps to follow if you’re looking to implement belly breathing into your daily routine. The technique involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth. The steps for practising belly breathing are as follows:
- Get comfortable by sitting down or lying down on a flat surface.
- Make sure that you take a second to purposely relax your shoulders, as we naturally hold a lot of tension within these muscles.
- Place one hand onto your chest and move the other hand to your stomach.
- Start to breathe in through your nose and count to two. As this happens, you should feel the air begin to move through your nose and down into your stomach. You should feel your stomach expand, but ensure that your chest remains still.
- Prepare to exhale by pursing your lips and using the hand on your stomach to press down gently.
- Now, exhale slowly for the next two seconds.
- Repeat this process 3-5 times to achieve the best results.
Belly breathing benefits
Belly breathing is shown to have an extensive range of benefits, from lowering stress levels to improving core muscles by strengthening your diaphragm. The Global Classroom has identified some of the core belly breathing benefits:
- Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
- Relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms
- Strengthening your core muscles
- Improved lung capacity
Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety
Put simply, when we breathe deeply, our brain receives the message that it’s time to calm down and relax. Once the brain processes this alert, it distributes the message across the body.
Stress triggers the release of cortisol – the hormone which induces feelings of stress and anxiety – which can lead to increased respiratory rates, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Deep breathing alerts the brain to reduce the production of this hormone, reducing feelings of stress.
When we get stressed, our body has natural reactions, including increased heart rate and higher blood pressure. Once this message of relaxation is distributed across the body, these symptoms of anxiety are reduced. The heart rate slows, leading to a decrease in blood pressure and the rate of your breathing.
Relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects two in ten people across the UK. This condition is defined by its painful abdominal cramping and bloating.
It’s been suggested that IBS is linked to stress , causing problems with the communication between your digestive system and your brain.
As a result, belly breathing can help to relieve symptoms of IBS by lowering stress levels and reducing general feelings of anxiety as indicated above.
Strengthening your core muscles
Our core muscles include the abdominal wall, pelvic floor muscles, lumbar muscles and the diaphragm. As belly breathing exercises the diaphragm, it’s an excellent way to stretch your abdominal muscles. When we exhale during belly breathing, we’re providing the opportunity for our core muscles to expand fully.
When coupled with core muscle exercises, belly breathing can lead to increased strength in your core, which is essential for balance, posture and general strength.
Improved lung capacity
One of the most beneficial belly breathing benefits for your health is increased lung capacity, which refers to the amount of air that your lungs can hold.
After our mid-20s, our lung capacity slowly decreases, and this can be exacerbated by conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Belly breathing can help to maintain and extend lung capacity, keeping your lungs as healthy as possible and ensuring your body has access to the right amount of oxygen.
Our diaphragm is one of the key muscles in the breathing process. Belly breathing engages the diaphragm and strengthens it. With this improved strength, your diaphragm can help to clear mucus from the lungs during deep breathing exercises, and can reduce shortness of breath.
Breathing requires the use of several muscles and, just as lifting heavy weights increases the strength in our arms, belly breathing provides a workout for the diaphragm to increase its strength.
These are a selection of the top belly breathing benefits, but if you’re looking to learn more about the benefits of deep breathing then visit The Global Classroom’s Deep Breath Hub.
This information hub includes additional resources from James Nestor and Wim Hof to help you explore the benefits of breathing exercises.