Ohhh, deep belly breath. How I adore you so.
I swear, practicing deep belly breath is probably the most worthwhile advice I could give to each and every one of you.
And I say practice for a reason. It’s easy to just boff it off or say, yeah sure, what’s breathing deeply into my belly really going to change?
Well in one of my latest articles, “Embrace Your Buddha Belly” (in Spanish: “Abrazando su Panza de Buda”) I described how the mind in the gut is like a second brain. It’s complex and full of nerves, guts and intuition.
Breathing deeply into the belly, feeling it rise and fall, is also the quickest and simplest way to connect to the energy body and move out of a purely physical state of being. It’s how I start every yoga and meditation class; it’s the perfect transition exercise.
So many of us barely let the breath move into the chest, let alone the ribs and all the way down into the belly. We instead remain in a state of high anxiety, bundled with nerves. A ridiculous amount of energy is wasted holding onto this unknown tension.
A good majority of the activities we do ‘to relax’ don’t actually allow our bodies to rejuvenate and restore; they’re just enjoyable and fun to do. But if you practice soothing yourself through your belly breathwork, then you can make most any activity replenishing to your mind, body and energies. Your temple (i.e., your body) deserves this. By breathing deeply into the belly, we move from a constant state of fight or flight and into a very welcome state of rest and digest.
When the kids I used to nanny would get hurt, I would place a hand on their hurt and just tell them to breathe deeply into their bellies. Worked like a charm. Every time.
When I’m eating, walking, or talking too fast and need to sloooow it down, I remind myself to breathe deeply into my belly and take my time.
When I’m overwhelmed with emotion or need consolation and grounding, guess what I do? Place a hand on my belly and just breathe!
Another tried and true outlet for practicing deep belly breath: horses.
Before you even approach your horse you should start taking your deep belly breaths. As I mentioned in my “Healing with Horses” article, horses sense incongruence. By practicing this simple grounding exercise of breathing deeply into your abdomen, you are making yourself more accessible and approachable to your equine companions.
What do you do once you’re on your horse, before you find your stirrups and adjust your reins? My horse whisperer mamma would say, ‘Find your seat.’ I say, ‘Take a deep belly breath and let it all go.’ They’re basically two different ways of saying, ‘Find your center and proceed from there.’ This instills a sense of balance, comfort and safety.
On our last Cowgirl Yoga retreat, I was riding a horse that was acting up and being very, well, let’s just say, ‘hot to trot.’ He was rearing, prancing and just generally nervous and stressed (but don’t worry, it was nothing major and a ‘horse happening’ that we don’t have our CY retreat participants partake in).
Instead of feeding into his anxieties by becoming anxious myself, I instead practiced my deep belly breathing. There were various techniques I used to help him work through it but in order to be remain centered enough to know what to do and feel comfortable doing it; I focused on breathing into my belly. And every time I did, I could just feel him release with me and settle into an increasing sense of ease. It was a beautiful and wonderful moment, a reminder to remain centered and an inspiration to write this article.
So all in all breathing way deep down into the belly soothes us, our horses, our children, our digestion and our mindset. Use it to explore the full potential of your breath and the full potential of your being. Let it help you move gracefully and ease-fully into the unknown, through fears and beyond uncomfortable situations and tension.
It will present you with the truth of who you are and in this relaxed state, you’ll love what you find. You’ll be able to use relaxation, exploration and acceptance to take the reins of your own being and live the life you love.
So place a hand on your belly already, feel it rise and fall like the waves of the ocean, and breathe deeply into the new and deeply relaxed you.
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Ed: B. Bemel
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