We’re often told to take a breath when we are stressed, excited, or need to relax. Turns out, there is science behind it. The many reasons to try breathing exercises include improving your digestion, overall wellness, mental health, falling asleep, and breathing through stressful situations. There are so many reasons why you should try breathing exercises, that having an arsenal of breathing techniques will get you through any situation.
It’s All about the Breath
Our bodies use many different types of breath throughout the day, depending on our emotional and physical state. That’s why yoga and martial arts, and even some sports disciplines, focus so much on controlling the breath. Reverse abdominal breathing is one of these techniques that can help you relax and or stay calm during tense situations.
Watch the video to learn more about reverse breathing and how to start practicing it.
What Is Reverse Breathing?
Reverse breathing is a type of Taoist breathing that involves the abdomen constricting and exhaling as the belly or abdominal muscles relax. It’s tricky at first because this is the opposite of what the body does in natural breathing. It is used in martial arts to control energy levels in the body and deepen a meditative state.
Most people don’t realize it, but the body often goes into reverse breathing mode on its own when yawning, emotional reactions (crying, laughing), and when pushing a car or otherwise exerting yourself. If you assume a pushing posture and imagine moving a heavy object, your abdominals will automatically tense up.
Benefits of Reverse Breathing
Many people practice reverse breathing to deepen their meditation practice. But there are many other benefits attributed to this type of breathing, such as:
- Helps strengthen abdominal muscles
- Boosts the immune system by spreading oxygen throughout the body
- Creates energy that can protect the body from viruses and harmful bacteria (known as Guardian Chi)
- Improves energy levels by changing the pressure between the chest and the abdomen
- Increase lung capacity by training the lungs to take in more air
How to Practice Reverse Breathing
Reverse breathing involves two body parts: the abdominal muscles and the perineum. If you are not sure where the perineum is located, it’s that area that includes your girl parts or boy parts, as my yoga teacher used to say.
The exercise involves controlling these two areas as we breathe, but not forcefully moving them to breathe differently. And keep the pressure and pushing involved in reverse abdominal breathing soft, slow, light, and gentle.
Controlling the Abdominal Muscles
Breathe deeply pull in your abdominal muscles as you inhale. It should feel as though your breath is slipping down you back and filling your abdomen with pressure. Relax your stomach as you exhale.
Controlling the Perineum
As you inhale, gently pull up on your anus from the inside. Don’t pucker or tilt the pelvis. As you exhale, let everything relax.
This will probably feel awkward and weird at first. Avoid creating tension and holding the breath, a common practice when you first try reverse breathing. As you are getting used to how it feels, start seated, and take shorter breaths.
Frequent short sessions are a good way to get the hang of it. Try the technique while caught at red lights. That’s a good measure of how long your beginning sessions should last. Then, increase the duration as you feel more at ease with the technique and increase your lung capacity. Use this technique when you need to calm down or want to relax.