Harnessing the Breath: Remembering How to Belly Breathe

Most people are unaware that the breath is one of their most important real-time stress reduction resources. The capacity to belly breathe during stressful situations often means the difference between responding well and poorly.

When it comes to mindfulness, being able to slow down and deepen your breathing at will is the difference to between talking the talk, and walking the walk.

“We all breathe, but not many of us do it well”, says Cameron Aggs, Clinical Psychologist and EQ Training Specialist. “Most of us expand our chest, rather than our diaphragm when we breathe in. This reduces the oxygen intake to the brain and is associated with the fight-flight reflex, as opposed to the relaxation response,” he explains. “Alternatively, slow belly breaths increase oxygen to the brain and body and bring an array of health benefits as well as helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.”

The 2 hands technique

Exercise 1

Place one hand on your chest, one on your belly and notice which hand is moving most. Estimate and allocate percentages to both hands – If the breath was 100%, what amount would be felt in the bottom hand, and what percentage would be in the top?

Exercise 2

Use the ‘Breath Pacer’ to help you get an estimation of how many seconds your average out-breath lasts for. There is no right and wrong with this. Just estimate was feels most true for you. Once you have a stable sense of the length of your average out-breath rate that on the slider below.



3 seconds

The key

Breath in = Deep

Wakefulness, alertness, & presence

Breath out = Long

Releasing, relaxing, letting go


4 minutes

Tonight before bedtime do the following: Set an alert on your phone for 4 minutes. Lie on your back with both hands on your belly. Push your belly out as you breathe in. If you like, imagine there is a balloon in your tummy which expands on your in-breath in and deflate on your outbreath.

Why: This will help trigger your muscle memory around deep belly breathing. It is essential that you learn to breathe diaphragmatically if you are going to employ mindfulness in a powerful way. Because all of your muscles are relaxed when you lie down, it is the best position to breathe deeply.

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