The answer should be the latter—and not only when you’re focusing on deep breathing during yoga or meditation. You should also practice belly breathing during exercise. News to you? Here’s what you need to know about making your inhales and exhales come from your gut.
What Is Belly Breathing?
Yes, it literally means breathing deeply into your stomach. It’s also known as diaphragmatic breathing because it allows the diaphragm—the muscle that runs horizontally across the belly, kind of looks like a parachute, and is the primary muscle used in respiration—to expand and contract.
While belly breathing is our body’s natural way to inhale and exhale, it’s more common for adults to breath ineffectively, AKA through the chest, says Judi Bar, a 500-hour certified yoga instructor and yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic. Many people tend to resort to chest breathing when they’re stressed because the tension makes you tighten your belly, explains Bar. This ultimately makes it harder to breathe efficiently. “It becomes a habit and because it’s a more shallow breath, it actually feeds the sympathetic response—the fight or flight response—making you more stressed,” she says. Thus, you get a circle of anxious reactions just from chest breathing.