Belly Breathing


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This is a very powerful and very simple technique.  It teaches you slow breathing from the "diaphragm" or belly.  It relaxes you and directly reduces many of the symptoms of anxiety and panic.  It can be both the first step in mastering panic and the first step in learning meditation.  

Plan to practice Belly Breathing once or twice a day, starting with five minutes.  Then, gradually increase the time up to about 15 minutes. 

Here's a good way to learn Belly Breathing:

Lie comfortably on your back, with a pillow under your head, your knees bent and your back flat.  You can stretch your legs out if that's more comfortable.  Place one hand on your belly.  Once you're comfortable, you can start the exercise.


Inhale while you slowly count to 4.  Expand your belly as much as you can like a balloon.   You know you're doing "belly breathing" right when you can feel your belly expand.  Then, exhale to the slow count of 4, just letting all the air out of the balloon.  As you exhale, just feel yourself letting go of tension.  

Keep repeating the belly breathing to the slow count of 4.  When your mind wanders, just gently bring your attention back to the counting and belly breathing.  

After you have practiced this exercise for about a week, try doing your Belly Breathing when you are sitting.  Then, try it at different times during the day, even when you are standing.  Notice that it is very relaxing.

Once you have mastered your Belly Breathing, you can use it when you have symptoms of anxiety or panic.  Many of the "scary sensations" of panic are related to "hyperventilation", which simply means rapid breathing.  Also, during panic, people tend to breathe from the chest instead of from the belly.  Breathing rapidly from the chest increases anxiety.  Breathing slowly from the belly lowers anxiety and reduces many of the "scary sensations" of panic.

Mastering Panic:  A Powerful Cognitive-Behavioral Approach



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