Abdominal breathing is the natural way to breathe. At birth, our diaphragm pulls down to expand the lungs when we inhale, and pushes up to push the air out during exhale. Notice how a baby’s belly rises and falls during inhale and exhale respectively. This is the abdominal breath. As we get older, tensions build up, and many people do not know how to release this stress. This is the reason people sigh after too much stress. The stress continues to build up, and up, and up, in the chest. Then we sigh to release the build-up of tension instead of releasing tension constantly with every breath.
With awareness and practice, we can breathe deep abdominal breaths naturally, instead of shallow chest breaths.
To practice abdominal breathing simply sit comfortably with good posture. Keep a straight back and a stable position that you are able to hold. You can also do this exercise when laying down. Place one hand gently over the navel. As you inhale, gently try to push the hand away from the body with the abdomen. As you do this notice the diaphragm pulling down and air filling the bottom of the lungs. On exhale, press the stomach inwards (using the abdominal muscles, not hands) to push the diaphragm up and air out of the lungs.
Repeat this inhale and exhale until comfortable. In time, you will no longer need the hand to gauge the movement and the breath will naturally come from the diaphragm. You will even notice your breath becoming longer and deeper.
Practice this in the morning, when stressed, at night, or any time really! Just 5 minutes of abdominal breathing can work wonders for awareness, oxygen levels, and stress.