Relaxation Exercise

Diaphragmatic Breathing

  • Place one hand just above your navel and the other on your chestt. You can use your hands as a simple biofeedback device. Your hands will tell you what part of your body, and what muscles, you are using to breathe.
  • Open your mouth and let out a sigh, as if you are letting go of the day. As you do, let your shoulders and the muscles of your upper body relax down with the exhalation. The point of the sigh is not to completely empty your lungs- it’s to relax the muscles of your upper body.
  • Close your mouth. Inhale slowly through your nose, and as you inhale let your belly expand and push out.   When you’ve inhaled as much air as you can comfortably (without straining or using your upper body), take a brief pause.
  • Pause for as long as is comfortable for you without straining to hold the breath.  Allow the belly to be full and expanded as you pause after the inhale.  Know that when you breathe this way, you are likely taking larger breaths that you are used to. If you breathe at the same rate you use with your small, shallow breaths, you will probably feel a little lightheaded from over-oxygenating and deep breathing. It’s not harmful. If that happens, it’s a signal to slow down your breath.
  • Exhale through your nose and allow your stomach to fall.  Allow the exhale to be longer than the inhale, up to twice as long as the inhale.  Repeat the brief pause in between the out-breath and the in-breath.
  • Repeat this breathing for 10 cycles, or 5-10 minutes.
  • Once you feel comfortable with the above technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (with inhalation) and stress or anger (with exhalation). The idea being to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with inhalation and release those you don't want with exhalation.

The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen are only needed to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, they are no longer needed.

Abdominal breathing is just one of many breathing exercises. But it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become improving the body's internal rhythm.


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