Did you know that human beings are born with the ability to practice deep breathing? Between your two lungs are five sections called lobes. The left lung has two and the right has three. The right lung is shorter than the left to accommodate your diaphragm, which rises higher on the right. But, we rarely use all five lobes to breathe. Do you know who does? Babies.

You can see the rise and fall of a sleeping baby’s tummy. As our bodies mature into adulthood, we no longer take full breaths, much to our disadvantage. Runners, singers and meditators practice and re-learn full-belly breathing – to great effect.

Soft belly breathing has many benefits. It offers our bodies a full exchange of oxygen, which helps us to slow down our heartbeat,  lower and stabilize our blood pressure and reduce our stress. Further, this full diaphragmatic breathing can help people cope with symptoms of PTSD, improve muscle stability, improve the body’s ability to exercise intensely, and it allows the body to expend less energy.

If you want to see how this feels in your body, practice this 5-minute soft belly breathing technique, guided by Dr. James Gordon, founder and executive director of the non-profit Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

Learning practices such as soft belly breathing can help you to live your day-to-day life with more peace and ease. Have you thought about other ways you can improve your health and daily life? Discover What Matters. Live Whole Health: https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/get-involved/outreach-toolkit.asp.

Whole Health is about you and your community. Take a moment to read stories featuring Veterans across the country who are taking control of their health and well-being through Whole Health. Whether you’re interested in garden yoga or self-care practices, the Whole Health community is ready to welcome you with open arms. Veterans just like you are working every day to live their best lives Living Whole Health. https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/features/index.asp.

Andrea Young is a field implementation team consultant with the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation.

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Published on Mar. 8, 2021

Estimated reading time is 1.8 min.

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