In the last several weeks of teaching mindfulness classes, I have been asking participants to try a technique that I first learned in Donna Farhi’s book, The Breathing Book. I am amazed at how quickly it can help promote a more relaxed sense in the body.
If you are like me, it is very common to hold the breath, particularly under stress. The main breathing muscle, our diaphragm, which is attached to the underside of our ribs is often restricted when our breath is held. This presents a problem, as the muscle is designed to descend and contract on an in breath and to release and travel upwards as we exhale.
This is how you can try to relax this muscle. The first thing to do is to place your hand on your abdomen, just below your ribs. Rest your attention on this area as you sit here and observe any physical sensations. Now, find an object to focus on in front of you and narrow your field of view so that all your concentration is on this object. Note any impact on your breathing. Many people will experience a tightening.
Next, purposeful widen your field of vision so that you allow your peripheral vision to activate. One way of doing this is imagine that you can “soften your eyes” and the muscles that hold the eyes in place. Rather than focusing on one object, allow your vision to take in the full landscape of what you can see.
Pay attention, as you might experience a release in the diaphragm muscle….the breath may spontaneously lengthen…and before you know it…you may encounter a moment of calm. As I do this, I can feel the calm move into my chest and into the shoulders. Yum!