Taking deep breaths can be a powerful tool to use in order to produce relaxation within the brain and the body. When taking deep breaths it is imperative to engage in diaphragmatic breathing.
How Does Diaphragmatic Breathing Produce Relaxation?
During diaphragmatic breathing the diaphragm expands and as it is filled with air the wall of the diaphragm compresses into various organs, such as the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve that when activated can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is known as the relaxation response that can assist with decreasing distress, anxiety, panic, and nervousness. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing is recommended as this will make it more easily accessible in moments of distress.
Exercises to Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing:
1. Laying down in a comfortable position on your back, put a kleenex box on your stomach, and then intentionally try to breathe in a way where the kleenex box moves upward/outward with each inhale and downward/inward with each exhale.
2.Lay-Z Boy Pose: Sitting or laying down in a comfortable position, place your hands behind your head, elbows facing out. If you are sitting in a chair, lean back slightly, expanding your rib cage a bit. Now begin taking long, deep, full breaths. As you do this, you will notice your rib cage expanding with each inhale.
3. Hands-On Pose: Sitting upright in a chair or lying down, place your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your stomach, just above your belly button. Begin taking long, deep, slow breaths in and out. As you breathe, be mindful that your left hand remains still, and your right hand moves upward/outwards with each inhale and downward/inward with each exhale. You should observe your right hand moving more than your left.
1.J. Sweeton, Trauma Treatment Toolbox 2019, Vagus Nerve Activation Through the Breath and Diaphragmatic Breathing