Belly (Diaphragm) Breath

10.05.2017 |

Episode #2 of the course Restorative yoga for restful sleep by Elaine Oyang


In our first exercise, we will explore belly (diaphragm) breathing to help us transition from a stress mode in our body to a calm mode. Here we use a sand bag (or any other heavier object) to help us gain awareness of the rise and fall of our belly with each breath. You may find this exercise challenging at first since most of us are not attuned to the diaphragm. The good news is that the diaphragm is a muscle, and like any muscle in the body, it will get stronger with practice.

What you need:

● Sand bag, heavy blanket, or a couple of heavy books
● Pillow

How to:

Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your head on a pillow. Place the sand bag (or other props that you are using) over your belly, as pictured. Relax your arms by your sides with your palms facing up and allow your shoulders to soften to the floor. Without straining your body, take deep breaths into your belly so that the sand bag rises and falls with each breath. Complete 20-30 rounds like this, then place the sand bag to the side. Rest and observe how you feel.

Why this works:

If you watch a newborn or a young child breathe while they sleep, you’ll notice that their belly rises and falls with each breath. Now if you pay attention to your normal breathing, you’ll find that you breathe mostly into your chest. When we transition from childhood to adulthood, the added stressors in our lives cause our bodies to literally tighten up and take shorter and shallower breaths. There is also the aesthetic aspect of sucking one’s belly in for the flat tummy appeal. However, chest breathing is a less effective way of taking in oxygen and also stimulates the stress response in your nervous system (the sympathetic nervous system). On the other hand, belly (diaphragm) breathing helps you draw in deeper breaths for effective oxygenation of the entire body, as well as slowing the nervous system down (the parasympathetic nervous system) to promote deeper relaxation.


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