If you’re like most people (and most people are), your breathing sucks. Well, technically, half of all breathing sucks, but most of us rely too much on our chest and neck muscles to breathe, resulting in increased tension in the neck and shoulders. For health and performance, you should instead breathe with your belly.
Breathing with your belly–AKA diaphragmatic breathing–is essential for maintaining proper form and stability during physical activity. This core stability can help you avoid injury, and practicing belly breathing regularly can improve your overall physical performance. Diaphragmatic breathing also can increase oxygen intake, improve overall health, and reduce anxiety.
To breathe diaphragmatically, lie down and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Slowly inhale through your nose, letting your belly expand while minimizing chest movement. Exhale slowly through your mouth (or nose if you’re able), letting the abdomen slowly deflate, moving your chest as little as possible. Allow for a few beats of rest prior to your next inhale. Practice belly breathing for five minutes at a time, four or five times daily.
Anxiety can significantly impair your daily routine, making it difficult to focus, stay motivated, and feel positive. It's essential to practice self-care and find healthy ways to manage stress, such as belly breathing. Find what works best for you and make it a regular part of your routine. Give belly breathing a try!