Slowing and “deepening” your breath reassures your body that all is well.
There is a way you can find relaxation: no matter where you are.
Slowing and “deepening” your breath communicates to your nervous system that all is well. This style of breathing brings your body into the relaxed, healing state. When you breathe this way, your heart rate naturally slows and circulation increases. Your digestion and healing are your body’s primary focus. These breaths stimulate the vagus nerve, and engage the parasympathetic nervous system.
Here is a simple two-step breathing exercise to help you find relaxation. First, breathe in through your nose and allow your lower belly to rise. On your next breath, keep your belly flat and allow your breath to fall all the way to the basin of your pelvis. It can take a little practice to relearn how to breathe naturally into your low belly, the space between your navel and your pubic bone.
What you are doing is called diaphragmatic breathing. As you bring your breath into the deepest parts of your lungs, your diaphragm drops and your belly expands. This is the natural way we breathe. Yet many of us have adapted to a habitual style of breathing that is more shallow, that inflates our upper chests and, ironically, mimics our body’s stress response.
For instance, you may find it helpful to try another exercise. Put one hand on your sternum, and one hand on your low abdomen, below your navel and above your pubic bone. Exhale all your air out, letting your chest drop. As you inhale, feel your belly move while your chest stays relatively still. Imagine your breath is influencing your whole lower body, all the way down to the soles of your feet. Let your breathing slow.
This exercise helps you find relaxation by imitating the type of breathing that occurs naturally when you are relaxed. By breathing this way, you are communicating to your brain on a primal level that “all is well.” Your brain responds by continuing to bring you further into a relaxed state. Therefore, these deep belly breaths communicate reassurance to your nervous system, allowing your body to achieve its natural healing state.