Mindfulness Training for Health and Wellbeing

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The feeling of being stuck has a strong physical component. As I sense this feeling in my body, I realize that I am holding a lot of tension in my abdomen. I know this kind of holding restricts my breathing and it may be contributing significantly to this feeling of “stuckness”. In order to free up the restrictive feeling of the breath, it is helpful to move towards a more natural way of breathing called diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, that involves relaxing the abdominal muscles.

It is useful to know that the human body main breathing muscle is the diaphragm. It is shaped like an opened upside down umbrella. The diaphragm is attached to the bottom of your ribs and your spine and separates your chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm is designed to contract on inhalation. This causes the diaphragm to descend and press gently on the abdominal organs which usually can be detected by the abdominal movement outwards. The muscle relaxes on exhalation, moves upwards and helps to expel the air out of the lungs.

Here’s is a way to determine whether you are breathing with the diaphragm. Whether you are standing or sitting, place your right hand on your chest and your left hand gently on your belly. Turn your attention towards the breathing and observe inwardly the impact of the breath on these areas. Is your chest moving as you breathe? Is your belly moving as you breathe? Take a few moments to observe and feel the sensations of this flow of energy in your body. It is not unusual for you to experience the chest moving.

In your minds eye….turn your attention to your belly….invite the lower part of your ribs and abdomen to relax. As you breath in, see if you can sense the movement of the belly outward. The relaxed abdomen will allow the diaphragm to descend more deeply allowing you to breath more deeply and fully. As you exhale, invite the belly to deflate, as if air was being released from a balloon.

Give yourself a chance to have this experience. If you have been holding your abdominal muscles in a constrictive way for some time, abdominal breathing may feel quite strange and unusual. Abdominal breathing will help you to relax and slow down.