We all know that stress can affect our bodies in many different ways including increased muscle tension. But did you know you can help alleviate some of that tension with diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing? Diaphragmatic breathing is a slow and deep breathing method where you try to breathe into your stomach. It can help to reduce the sympathetic (fight or flight) response that increases muscle tone when in a stressful situation.
Don’t know how to belly breathe? Start out laying on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Practice breathing in through your nose like you are smelling flowers. As you are inhaling, you should feel your hand that is on your belly rise, while the hand on your chest stays relatively still. Then you want to slowly exhale through your mouth like you are blowing out birthday candles (about 3-5 seconds) while the hand that is on your belly lowers. Repeat this a few times, but be sure to do each breath slowly (let’s not hyperventilate).
Once you get the hang of diaphragmatic breathing in this position, you can practice this type of breathwork while sitting or during other stretches too!