Take a breath. Really. Breathe in and notice where the breath goes. If you’re like most people in our fast-moving world, your breath fills up your chest when you breathe in. Shallow breathing, also known as thoracic breathing, can lead to anxiety and other health issues. We are born knowing how to practice deep belly breathing, which uses the diaphragm to pull the breath deeper and expand our lungs—but sometimes we forget!

Breathing slowly and deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth with a soft and relaxed belly can increase the body’s exchange of oxygen. This technique also stimulates the body’s rest and relaxation response. It quiets the areas of the brain that register fear and anger.

By practicing soft belly breathing, we can increase self-awareness, improve decision making, slow our heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and promote relaxation. This breathing technique quiets the “fight-or-flight” reaction, and it allows your mind and body to skillfully respond to stress.

Join Dr. James Gordon, founder and executive director of the non-profit Center for Mind-Body Medicine, in a five-and-a-half-minute soft-belly breathing exercise:


Are you curious about how breathing affects your body? You can learn more from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute here: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/lungs/breathing-benefits.

Did you know that practicing yoga is an excellent way to learn belly breathing? If you have thought about giving yoga a try, but aren’t sure how to get started, check out this resource for more information.

By Andrea Young is a field implementation team consultant and communications specialist with VA's Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

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Published on Jul. 11, 2022

Estimated reading time is 1.3 min.

Views to date: 465

One Comment

  1. Loretta Sweet July 12, 2022 at 9:28 am

    I an 68 years old and have been practicing yoga for seven years. I currently meet with my daughter (200 hrs YTT) via Zoom twice a week. I can attest to the whole health benefits yoga offers and as I age, I can clearly see that maintaining my flexibility, strength and balance will continue to positively impact my quality of life. Thank you for encouraging my fellow veterans to investigate yoga.

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