Lower-belly breathing or deep belly breathing is a form of somatic meditation as it entails not only mindful breathing but also awareness of bodily sensations.
It involves conscious breathing through your lower-belly, being aware of both the in-breath (through the nose) and the out-breath through the mouth. You can place one hand on your lower-belly (below the navel) and the other on your diaphragm.
Now breathe into your lower-belly to a count of four, and exhale to a count of four, feeling the expulsion of breath through your diaphragm. You can complete a number of sets of this exercise and also combine it with holding your in-breath for a count of four and your exhalation for the same count.
This breathiing exercise can be done lying down or sitting up. It is often recommended that you start with lying down and progress to sitting up.
In the following video, Christina Macias discusses the benefits of deep belly breathing – a foundational breathing exercise, and takes you through the basic steps involved (beginning at 6.45 minutes).
Christina Macias stresses the importance of balancing deep belly breathing with other forms of breathing, including conscious expansion of your rib cage. Her instructional videos on her Facebook channel take you through the benefits and steps involved in each form of breathing exercise.
Lower-belly breathing is an easy way to grow mindfulness and increase your awareness – to take your awareness out of the stress-producing chatter in your head and grounding it in your body.
Somatic meditation involves grounding your meditation in your body and not in your mind. We spend so much time in our minds, thinking about the past and the future.
This form of meditation enables us to take advantage of the “natural wakefulness” of our own bodies and to really connect with the present moment.
Conscious breathing is central to somatic meditation and this can take many forms such as:
lower belly breathing
whole body breathing
Somatic meditation also incorporates awareness about sensations in your body that you can develop through practices such as posture alignment, massage, mindful walking and progressive relaxation.
Dr. Catherine Kerr, through her neuroscience research, has shown that mindfulness-based body awareness (developed through conscious breathing and awareness of body sensations) can actually change your mind.
She demonstrates how somatic meditation can overcome negative thoughts and reduce depression, stress and distress from chronic pain.
Sandra Hotz, through her Body Centred Psychotherapy, uses somatic meditation for healing trauma. Your many life experiences are not only stored in your mind but also in your body. Somatic meditation can help to release deep and painful memories that are locked up within your body.
Somatic meditation takes so little time and effort but its benefits are far-reaching. It will help you to achieve stillness and calm and to reduce the hectic pace of your life – it is one sure way to grow mindfulness.