Friday, September 6, 2013

Breathe from your abdomen for optimal health and relaxation.


Look at the way a newborn baby breathes. Watch as it lays there, on it's back, as its belly rises with each inhalation, and falls with each exhalation.

Now watch the way a typical adult breathes. Seriously, next time you're at the office watch a co-worker on a call with a client, or in a staff meeting. Watch the chest rise and fall with each short breath.

What's the difference? A baby doesn't have a care in the world. All it needs is nourishment and love from it's mother. The typical adult has many cares, many forms of stress, and usually a less than optimal way to deal with life's stress.

If you know me, or have read my book, Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit, you know that what I propose for optimal health involves a program that develops the mind, body, and spirit. The best way to accomplish this is through a holistic program. I recommend eating a healthy diet (preferably a high-raw plant-based nutrition plan) and coupling qigong and other energy cultivation exercises like Taijiquan or yoga, with vigorous exercises such as strength or cardiovascular training, and meditation.

This might be a tall order for many people and too drastic of a lifestyle change initially. To simplify things I created the "Mind, Body, Spirit Power Hour", a way to fit optimal mind, body, and spirit development into a simple to follow, sixty-minute program. You can read more about it in my book or in the following blog post:True Health - Integrating the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

I realize that even committing an hour a day can be too much initially for some people, so that leaves the question; what can you do that will begin to have an immediate impact on your health, that requires little to no time or effort? Simple. Breathe. Breathe deeply, calmly, and relaxed. Breathe from the belly, just like a baby.

Short, shallow breathing from the chest is not healthy. Long, deep, relaxed breathing from the belly is very healthy.

According to WebMD, "Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax." (Click here to read more from WebMD.)

Breathing is something we shouldn't have to think about, we are born knowing how to do it. Unfortunately, as we grow older and enter into our professional lives, we encounter more and more stress and sacrifice our health for our livelihood. In doing so, we forget what our body instinctively knows.

How to breathe correctly
  • Calm down
  • Breathe in deeply through your nostrils
  • As you breathe in, draw the breathe deep into your lower abdomen about 1-2" below your navel (referred to as the lower dan tien)
  • To assist in breathing into the abdomen, visualize a balloon filling with air in your lower belly as you inhale
  • Gently exhale through your mouth, allowing the "balloon" in your belly to deflate
  • Do not force the exhale, let it happen naturally
  • At no point hold your breath, let it flow in and out, continuously without effort

Breathing is that simple, but you will be surprised at first how difficult it is to adopt this practice. Be consistent, work on making this process second nature, your stress-levels, and more importantly your health, will thank you for it!

Be Well,


No comments:

Post a Comment