By Meredith Nathan, LMT
One of the most profound self-care exercises I’ve seen to enrich the health of the abdominal and reproductive organs is also the simplest. We’ve all been doing it since we exited our mother’s womb, and we will keep doing it till the day we die. But we haven’t always understood the full breadth of what a full breath can do for us.
Other than keeping us alive (no small task!), a deep, belly breath has a host of other benefits for the body! When you breathe from your diaphragm (an organ below your ribcage), the diaphragm pushes down onto the liver, intestines, uterus, ovaries, etc., effectively giving your abdominal organs a massage from the inside out! As fluid churns, lymph moves, and oxygen-rich blood passes to your viscera, your chi and vitality get a beautiful boost! Furthermore, belly breathing is like your tummy’s secret gym, creating muscle tone and strength, while helping prevent adhesion and stagnation.
And then there’s the mind-body connection…shallow chest breathing reminds your body of panting, which reminds it of running, which automatically turns on your sympathetic nervous system, an ancient fight-or-flight response. Adrenal and cortisol flood your body, creating stress and robbing your hormones of receptor sites. A full belly breath does the opposite – it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, creating full body relaxation and an environment that fosters good digestion, hormonal balance, and healing.
There is a big difference between breathing to stay alive and breathing to create health. Looking to find the difference? Lie on the floor with your knees bent, place your hands on your abdomen, and just spend 60 seconds focusing your breath into your diaphragm, into your back, and into your low belly…your body will thank you!