Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a deep breathing technique that fully uses the capacity of the lungs and the large muscle located below the lungs called the diaphragm.
The average human respiratory rate is usually 8-12 breaths per minute, a number that can rise to 20-30 breaths per minute when we are under pressure or are experiencing stress. During stress, we may be taking more breaths but reality is that we are inhaling less oxygen because the breaths are shorter and more shallow. When we are relaxed we are in opposition taking deeper and slower breaths and are as a result we are taking in more oxygen.
Abdominal breathing is inhaling fully by engaging your abdomen and diaphragm, like a baby that is breathing from the bottom of their lungs. When the diaphragm is moving up and down at the same time as the abdomen, rib cage and lower back, the blood flow to the inner organs as well as the peristalsis are boosted. Because of this the lymph is also able to flow more adequately through the lymphatic system.
Abdominal Breathing Technique:
Take a seated position or lie on your back with your head supported and preferably with bent knees.
Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. When you inhale and the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs, the hand on your belly should rise higher than the hand placed on your chest.
Exhale through the mouth and then take a slow deep breath in through your nose and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able to but not more than 7 seconds).
Exhale controlled and slowly through your mouth while you count to 8 and, at the same time as all the air is exhaled, tighten your abdominal muscles to completely exhale the remaining air out of the lungs. Keep in mind that we deepen respiration not only by inhaling more air but also by thoroughly exhaling it.
Repeat the pattern for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe one breath every 10 seconds or at 6 breaths per minute. This will cause the heart rate variability to increase and has a beneficial effect on our heart health.
Once you get the hang of how to practice conscious abdominal breathing you can play with the technique and even incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. An example is to say the word relaxation while you breathe in and stress while you breathe out, this will allow you to take in the desired emotion with the inhalation and release the stress or tension while you exhale.
There are several different breathing exercises and techniques that can help you increase the oxygen levels in your body while you reduce stress. Abdominal breathing will help you feel calmer and will release tension and by incorporating it at least twice a day you will soon experience that it will only get more natural by improving the body’s natural rhythm.
Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work (New York: Owl Books).
Robert, Ph.D. Fried, The Breath Connection : How to Reduce Psychosomatic and Stress Related Disorders With Easy-To-Do Breathing Exercises by Hardcover, 317 pages, ISBN: 0306434334
Gay Hendricks Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery by, Paperback, 189 pages, ISBN: 0553374435
Swami Ajaya and Rudolph Ballantine; Science of Breath Helpful websites: