Perfect abdominal breathing is readily observed in the newborn but unfortunately as we age, tension and stress in our day-to-day lives restrict this preferred pattern, resulting in a chronic and largely detrimental pattern of breathing.
When we breathe, the diaphragm relaxes and contracts in order to inhale and exhale respectively (this can be easily seen by the rising and falling of the abdomen when we breathe). When an individual is under stress however, either emotional or physical, their breathing pattern changes. Typically, we take shallow breaths using our chest and shoulders, rather than our diaphragm, in order to move air in and out of our lungs, which gradually causes the body to automatically breathe into the neck and shoulders and not correctly into the abdomen.
Practice abdominal breathing by laying on your back with your hands resting on your stomach. When you inhale, you hands should rise as your diaphragm lowers and pushes your stomach up. Expansion of the ribcage should then follow this. As you exhale, your hands should lower as your diaphragm pushes air out of your lungs.
Practice deep breathing several times during the day. Take just a minute to inhale as slowly and deeply as you can, followed by a even slower and deeper exhalation until you have emptied your lungs. Repeat 10 times. Usually by the end you will feel much less stress. One of the key benefits of exercise is simply the fact that we are breathing incredibly deeply and providing our body with more oxygen. So practising this exercise can be like a mini exercise routine!