Relaxation is all in your breath, of course

Abdominal Breathing Exercise

Purpose

• 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.

Process

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.

Practicing Breathing:

• 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

you exhale.

• 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)

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