Following the rhythm of diaphragmatic breathing and noticing the movement it makes in your belly is one of the simplest and most effective mindfulness meditation techniques to learn.  

 

About the Breath

  • We take approximately 17,000 breaths a day.
  • With each in breath we feed oxygen to the cells in our body and with each out breath we remove toxins.
  • The breath represents many things – from life force, sustenance and revitalisation to healing, energy and stress relief.
  • By focussing on something like our breath it can take our attention away from negative and/or overwhelming thoughts and feelings.
  • When people feel stressed, worried or fearful, their breathing tends to be shallow and quick.
  • Breathing slowly, deeply and fully brings us back to the present moment, grounding and anchoring us which can then lead the body into a state of relaxation.

Giving an anxious mind something to focus on, e.g. the breath, helps still the stream of thoughts that may be causing anxiety. There are three anchor points you can focus your awareness on. Choose the one that you notice the most to be your anchor point. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back by focussing on your anchor point with your next breath:

  1. Nostrils – noticing the feel of the air flowing in and out
  2. Chest – noticing it rising with the in breath and falling with the out breath
  3. Belly – noticing it inflating on the in breath and deflating on the out breath

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing (aka belly breathing)

The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your diaphragm lowers and your belly inflates, allowing your lungs to expand fully and draw in as much air as possible. The benefits of this are:

  • More efficient oxygenation – as you are engaging the bottom part of the lungs where about two thirds of the gas exchange takes place.
  • Muscle relaxation – as you are not using your neck and shoulders to breathe these areas have less tension.
  • Reduced heart rate – rebalances the autonomic nervous system which reduces things like stress and anxiety.
  • Assisted lymphatic drainage and digestion – as the abdominal muscles are massaged.
  • Improved posture and core strength – as your back keeps upright with each breath.

 

Tips

  • Don’t try to hold your breath when practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Let it flow naturally as you observe the sensations the air makes in your body as you breathe, e.g. the nostrils (cool or warm), chest (expanding and contracting) and belly (inflating and deflating).
  • It’s okay to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for the first couple of breaths in an exercise (releases body tension). Then begin to breathe in and out through the nose as this method filters the air and lowers the heart rate.
  • If you find you are having difficulty focusing on your breathing then counting each breath is a good way to distract a busy mind, e.g. in, 2, 3, 4 then out 2, 3, 4.
  • Refer to our How to Meditate blog post for some more tips on connecting to the breath.

We receive physical and spiritual sustenance from the world around us. This is like breathing in. Then because each of us is born with certain gifts, part of our happiness it to use these to give back to the earth, to our community, family and friends. This is like breathing out. (Jack Kornfield)

 

Additional Resources