“The brain needs more oxygen under stress…”
—Sharon Promislow, Making the Brain Body Connection
For some reason, I've been breathing quite shallowly lately. Perhaps my stress level has risen a bit these last few days, or perhaps I'm following some old pattern of breathing. When I breathe shallowly, I end up straining my scalene muscles, neck muscles that lift my rib cage during inhalation. I also cannot think as clearly during stress. And, decision-making becomes almost impossible. What helps me? Deep belly breathing.
I learned the following technique from Brain Gym, a system of educational kinesiology developed by Paul and Gail Dennison.
Deep belly breathing involves sitting or lying comfortably with both hands placed gently on my belly. I inhale through my nose, allowing my belly to expand into my hands, and then I exhale through my mouth. By expanding my belly and ribcage fully, I allow for more oxygen to enter my brain-body system. With such full breath, my blood pressure is more apt to lower and my heart rate to decrease. In essence, I am feeding my brain and body oxygen to function properly. And, when I imagine stress leaving my body with each full exhale, I feel more centered and relaxed.
Try this: Place your hands on your stomach and take some deep belly breaths, focusing on the fullness of each breath. Notice how this increase in oxygen makes you feel.
After experiencing the deep belly breathing exercise, continue your focus on your belly. What life has your belly had? Write with focus on your belly, from your belly, about its life. (If you lose focus, place your hands on your stomach and take a few deep breaths again.) What shapes has it taken and what emotions does it hold deep inside? Write about when you’ve sucked it in, causing your breath to feel shallow and tight? Or, write about when it is most relaxed and free.