Hi, I’m BbqDad. I have bipolar and PTSD.
Both mania and depression can be triggered by stress and anxiety. It is important for me, and I suspect for you to have tools available anytime and anywhere to reduce stress and anxiety.
Breathing. Are you breathing? (This is the first thing you check during CPR).
It seems like something that everyone already knows how to do, but the ancient Yogis (we’re talking Buddha 2500 years ago) discovered breathing techniques that can help the mind, body and soul of a person.
Would you like to help your mind, body and soul? I do.
This is the simplest and most basic breathing technique that anyone can master.
What is belly breathing?
In belly breathing you only breath with your belly. (duh) It uses the diaphragm, that dome shaped muscle between your lungs and stomach to fill and exhale the air into your lungs. It doesn’t use the muscles of your rib cage or chest. The goal is to have the chest be still and only the belly rises and falls.
7 Benefits of belly breathing
When you breathe through your belly, you’re not only reducing stress and anxiety from triggering mental health symptoms, you are also creating a stronger connection between the mind, body and breath.
- Reduces stress and keeps you calm – Belly breathing helps us release stress by activating the relaxation response, reducing cortisol levels, and increasing blood flow throughout our bodies. This increases oxygen levels in our bloodstream, which allows our brains to work better and stimulates endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed.
- Increases energy levels – When you breathe through your belly, you slow your breathing rate and heart rate and increase the efficiency of your heart and lungs. You also are not spending energy by activating your chest muscles. This frees up more energy for other activities and reduces feelings of fatigue.
- Boosts immunity – Belly breathing has been shown to increase immune response. A 2018 study showed practicing deep breaths increased the production of lymphocytes, one of the most important cells for a healthy immune system.
- Relieves pain – Deep breathing helps improve blood and oxygen circulation and encourages muscles to relax. This reduces muscle spasms and tightness, resulting in less pain.
- Lowers blood pressure – A recent study showed significant improvement that contemplative belly breathing can lower blood pressure. Notably, this reduction occurred with only 9 minutes of practice a day.
- Strengthens the lungs and diaphragm – Deep breathing causes the diaphragm to contract, which strengthens both the diaphragm and the lungs. Using your diaphragm improves lung capacity, volume and efficiency.
- Improves core muscle stability and posture – Activating the diaphragm by breathing into the belly also strengthens the core muscles of the body. The deep and side-core abdominal muscles are activated to stabilize your pelvis, spine and posture. Also, when practicing belly breathing, you’ll notice how much more comfortable the exercise is when you have a tall and straight spine.
The bottom line is that it is good for you and it is easy to learn. It just takes practice. This is the type of breathing that can be used whenever you do any mindfulness meditation practice.
Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed out or having a panic attack you breathe short fast breaths and the chest goes up and down. Sometimes it feels like you can’t even catch your breath, you are breathless. Belly breathing can calm you down.
Here is the gist of it. Try this exercise.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and long. If seated on the floor, you can use a cushion or folded blanket under the back of the hips for support. If seated on a chair, make sure both feet are flat on the floor.
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths through your nose. Allow your body to relax and bring your awareness to your breath. Make sure there is no tension in the shoulders, neck or face.
- Put a hand on your upper chest and a hand on your stomach. Inhale slowly through your nose until you feel your stomach rise slightly against your hand. Exhale slowly and feel your stomach fall away from your hand towards your spine.
- Breaths should be slow and deep with only the stomach moving. Try to keep the chest as still as possible. Continue with these deep breaths for several minutes.
So there you have it. Belly breathing has several benefits that can make the quality of your life better. You get slow and steady heart rate, deeper and more even breaths, stable blood pressure, loosened and relaxed muscles, and mental clarity due to more oxygen to the brain.
The main takeaway is that it relieves stress and anxiety which can help to lessen the chance of triggering mania and/or depression.
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