Health & wellness

The benefits of abdominal breathing

Ever watch babies breathe? With their tiny tummies rising and falling with each breath?

As we grow, we tend to take more shallow, rapid breaths — chest breathing that becomes more pronounced when we’re stressed.

Learning to engage in the more calming abdominal, or diaphragmatic, breathing can lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and induce relaxation. The technique is often employed in yoga classes.

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Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, director of the integrative medicine program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, teaches this breathing technique to patients during stress management assessments. Here’s how to do it:

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Lie down with a pillow under you head, and place your hands on your abdomen.

Inhale deeply and watch your hands rise; exhale slowly and watch your hands fall.

After taking a few slow, deep breaths, allow for your natural breathing pattern to emerge, rather than forcing your breath inward and outward.

Set a timer, and practice this breathing for 10 minutes.

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“This is a helpful exercise to do just before bedtime,” Nerurkar said.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.