What is belly breathing?

You’re not fooling me, we use our lungs to breathe, not our bellies! So what is this belly breathing thing?

Belly breathing is breathing using the diaphragm which really is the only correct way of natural breathing, it is the way babies and animals breathe, and it is how we are intended to breathe. 

Belly breathing isn’t new, nor is it something that was only recently discovered. It’s an ancient technique that has been practiced for thousands of years, and by cultures all over the world. One of the most well known is perchance coming from yoga, as the yoga teachings has an entire discipline dedicated only to breathing and the controlling of breathing, called Pranayama, and belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing plays a big role in it.

Belly Breathing benefits vs Chest Breathing benefits

Ok, sounds nice, but when I take a deep breath, I breathe with my chest, not my belly! And this belly thing happens all automatically the rest of the time!
Not true.
As our lungs are in our chests, we tend to believe that just opening up our chests opens our lungs as much as possible, and makes us breathe as deep as we can. But that’s not the case. The deepest breath we can take is starting with a belly breathe, then opening up our chest, and lastly opening up the shoulders.
Trough creating bad habits we’ve forgotten that belly breathe is our basic breathing. But it doesn’t look as pretty with a round tummy as it looks with a big opened up chest! Both for males and females.
Not only is belly breathing the more healthy and basic type of breathing, chest breathing can lead to a feeling of breathlessness, and anxiousness. It also doesn’t use full lung capacity, and can prevent adequate oxygen exchange. Therefor it is also often referred to as shallow breathing.

Young woman practices yoga and meditates in the lotus position on the peer of a lake on a sunny evening

Some of the advantages of deep belly breathing

  • It uses the human respiratory system in the most effective way.
    • When you are belly breathing, you are breathing the way our respiratory system was intended to be used, so it’s used in the most effectual way you can.
  • It activates the “relaxation response”.
    • The “relaxation response” is the precise opposite of the “stress response”. While the stress response has a whole set of triggers that you can use consciously or subconsciously, belly breathing is in reality the only way we ourselves can trigger the “relaxation response”.
  • It relieves pain.
    • Since belly breathing activates the “relaxation responses”, it can also release endorphins, which have a painkilling and euphoric effect.
  • It stretches and strengthens the core muscles, but in a gentle way
  • It improves posture and bodily functions
    • Belly breathing requires you to sit or stand up straight (or lay down, but you can’t keep that up all day each day 🙂 ). You can’t use belly breathing while hanging in the couch like a potato. This means that your posture has to be faultless, which will help you with your back, it will improve the flowing of blood, making the heart pump more efficiently, it will vastly improve food digestion, and will make sure your nerves are less likely to be pinched or stuck, making you feel better overall, and improve the hormonal flow.
Young woman practices yoga and meditates in the lotus position on the peer of a lake on a sunny evening

How to try deep belly breathing yourself

  • To try deep belly breathing yourself, find yourself a quite and comfortable place to sit up relaxed straight or lie down on your back
  • Place one hand on your chest, in the heart area
  • Place your other hand on the belly, above your belly button
  • Now take a few deep breaths
  • Breathe in through the nose
  • Breathe out through the mouth
  • Allow your hands to move up a little with the inhale and move back down with the exhale.

The hand on your belly button will move more than the hand on your heart.
Do this for 5 or more breaths, and you will feel the soothing effect this breathing has on your body and mind.
You can of course do this for a longer time, such as 5 or 15 minutes, but even as little as 3 simple deep belly breaths will bring your mind at ease again.
And the greatest part: you can do that just about anywhere, anytime.

A small warning: Although deep belly breathing is considered a natural way to breathe, if you have any lung conditions like asthma or COPD  (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any type of breathing exercises.

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