Abdominal Breathing Exercise
• Your breathing is directly related to the level of tension you carry in your body.
• I f you breathe shallowly, in your chest, you will become more tense and more
anxious. This kind of breathing stimulates the sympathetic branch of your nervous
system, which is connected to the “fight, flight or freeze” response.
• I f you breathe deeply, in your abdomen, you will become more relaxed. This type of
breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers a relaxing
and calming response.
To Discover How You Are Breathing Now:
• Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen (belly). Pay attention to
how you are breathing for a few moments. Observed which hand (if any) is moving.
• I f it is your top hand, you are breathing mostly in your chest — shallowly. This kind of
breathing will increase body tension and stress/anxiety.
• I f it is your bottom hand, then you are breathing in your abdomen. This will help you
to relax and calm down.
• The idea is to learn to breathe in your abdomen more.
• When practicing abdominal breathing, put both hands on your abdomen and close or
lower your eyes.
• First, breathe out fully. Then, as you breathe in, let your abdomen expand. You can
imagine that you are gently filling up a balloon in your belly.
• Then just let go and feel the balloon emptying slowly and your abdomen flattening as
• The more fully you breathe out, the easier it is to breathe in deeply.
• Practice breathing this way for 5 minutes twice a day.
(CBIS Manual, June 2009, British Columbia, Relaxation Module, by permission)