Belly Breathing

             We are mostly upper chest breathers. In this breathing technique, you inhale air into your belly or the lower portion of your lungs. Take a couple of deep breaths now. It’s natural to find that you are breathing mostly into your upper chest. That might seem more natural since the military was always telling us to “pop up your chest and suck in that gut.” Now, place your left or right hand below your rib cage. Take some slow easy deep breaths breathing in and out your nose. On the next inhale, see if you can breathe into the lower lobes of your lungs. If you are doing it properly, your hand of course will move.

            Take some time to practice. If you are having some difficulty moving that air into your belly, it may be due to physical tension in the solar plexus, that place where the rib cage meets in the middle, making that area rigid. To loosen up that area you can push out your stomach muscles when you inhale. This will allow the lower lobes of the lungs to expand without the restriction of tight muscles. After some practice, you can stop pushing out those muscles and the air will push your belly out.

            Lie on your back and place a heavy book on your stomach. This will help you focus more on getting air down into your belly. After taking ten breaths with the book on your belly, get into a sitting position and take ten more belly breaths. Now stand up remembering to keep a hand right below your rib cage and take ten more deep breaths. Now take ten more breaths while you are walking front wards and then ten more while walking backwards. Now take ten breathes with your eyes closed. Go for a walk outside and take ten belly breathes five different times while standing still and staring at different scenes and objects. Now, find a place to sit and close your eyes. I want you to count backwards starting at twenty. Count a number each time you exhale. The goal is to reach one without breaking your concentration.

            Is it true that you want to know how this skill can help you quiet the nightmares, have home feel like home again, have life matter in the same way it did before, reduce the anxiety, quiet the memories of war, get a good nights sleep, reduce the angry outbursts, enjoy a beer without drinking to feel numb, to feel love again, to be comfortable in social situations, to stop jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise, and to reduce the flashbacks?

            Stay tuned. The answers to that those questions will come in the course of this experience. In the meantime, think of this as basic training in overcoming the trauma of combat so you can get on with being content and happy. This training will be mentally intense and will require determination and commitment. The same kind of determination and commitment you showed during your years in the Service.

             Listen to CM1



           Break into pairs and practice the deep breathing and give each other feedback to include rhythm and the movement of the belly when inhaling and anything else that comes up. Take about five minutes and then we’ll come back together and make sure everyone is doing the breathing in the correct way. (Group discussion after the exercise on the mechanics of deep breathing)

            Look around the room and take a good look at each person. When you have looked at everyone, close your eyes again and take some slow easy deep breaths. Let your breathing slow down, open your eyes and look around again and once you have done that, close your eyes again and begin the deep breathing. Now let your breathing slow again, and open your eyes and look around. How many of you felt more relaxed this last time when you looked around the room? (Group Discussion)

            The deep breathing is a powerful skill. You will experience many benefits as you continue the training. Let’s go around the room and each person introduce themselves. When it’s your turn, I want you to place your hand on your belly, take two slow deep breaths and then say your first name and tell us what you’re feeling in that moment. (Group discussion after introductions)