Sometimes, it is the easiest things that are most effective. Soft belly breathing is a great example. I do this short breathing exercise for a few minutes every morning and sometimes when I start to feel a bit tense during the day..
Breathing exercises can be applied for immediate stress relief as they relax the nervous system. Belly breathing in particular can reduce tension in your neck and shoulders, accumulated during long stress periods of shallow breathing when we use our secondary respiratory muscles near our collar bones (chest rises) instead of engaging our diaphragm.
Here is how it works:
Sit upright and place your hands on your belly, forming a heart with your fingers (thumb at the navel and fingertips below). Inhale allowing your belly to expand into your hands, then contract on the exhale (focus on my belly in the video).
Your chest should remain completely immobile when you do this. You can practice a few times in front of a mirror if you want, that’s what I did 😉
The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped breathing muscle that is located directly below your heart. When you inhale, it contracts and makes space for your lungs to fill. Your belly rises. When you exhale, the diaphragm goes back up as the belly contracts.
By doing this so-called diaphragmatic breathing (and know that this is actually how we are supposed to breathe all the time), your diaphragm is giving your heart a massage while your phrenic nerve (the nerve that runs down the sides of your diaphragm) allows your parasympathetic nervous system (that is responsible for the rest-and-digest response in your body) to become active.
Many people advice to do a few minutes of conscious belly breathing when you wake up or before you go to bed. But you can literally do it anytime during the day, whenever you feel the need to calm down and centre yourself.