Studies have shown that diaphragmatic (belly) breathing may provide an array of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, making breathing easier for people with chronic lung conditions, controlling hot flashes, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving attention and focus. It may also reduce reflux-related burping.
You might recognize belly breathing from yoga classes. It is safe, costs nothing, and is easy to do, but it takes some practice. Here’s how to start:
While lying down, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, above your belly button.
1. Breathe in slowly through your nose, imagining you have a balloon in your stomach (under your hand) that you’re inflating as you breathe in, to a count of four. The chest and shoulders should be still as your abdomen rises.
2. Breathe out through your mouth, imagining that the balloon is deflating, to a count of four. The abdomen falls as you exhale. Chest and shoulders remain still.
3. When you’re comfortable, increase the exhale portion to a count of eight.
4. Practice 30 breaths (about five minutes) three times a day or when you experience symptoms (reflux-related or otherwise). Once you’re confident in the technique, you can advance to practicing while sitting or standing, which is more difficult to do while maintaining proper technique.
This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.