Diaphragmatic breathing (also called belly breathing and abdominal breathing) engages the diaphragm—that large, dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, separating the chest cavity from the abdomen.
In Meditation for the Rest of Us (2009,) James Baltzell suggests observing sleeping babies and following their lead: draw air deep through your nose into their lungs, expanding the pulmonary cavity that houses your heart and lungs. The diaphragm moves down and fills your lungs with oxygen. New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Dr. Chiti Parikh recommends starting out lying down so that the surface beneath can give you feedback on whether you’re breathing back into the back of your body:
Lie on your back, relax your muscles, and place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly. Take long, slow breaths in and out through your nose, and watch your hands as they move. Breathe in for four seconds, and then out for six. Over time, lengthen your exhales. Notice how, with shallow breaths, the chest moves, but with deep breathing, the belly moves too.
Don’t get aggravated as thoughts of worry or anxiety enter the mind. Don’t quell your unquiet mind. Gently acknowledge the thoughts and let your attention slip from them.
Idea for Impact: Learning to breathe deep, focus your attention, and relax is a skill that can help subdue stress and stay calm. Practice this exercise whenever you’re anxious and realize quick, shallow breathing. As with any skill, your ability to anchor your mind in the present moment will improve with practice.
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