Practice these exercises for about five minutes several times a day. Use them to help you get in touch with your feelings and to release any tension or numbness in your body, especially in your emotional center: your head and face, throat, chest, abdomen and pelvic areas. Relaxing your belly and feeling your entire torso expand with each breath is your first step to greater relaxation and body awareness.
Sit with your back comfortably straight in a chair and place your hands on your belly. Notice if you’re holding your belly in, or if the muscles of your belly feel relaxed. Now pull your belly in, tense it up as much as you can. Tighter, tighter, tighter and now let it go as loose and limp as possible. Again. Tighten. Tighter. Hold it as tight as you can. Now let it completely out. Do this exercise for about thirty seconds to a minute.
This exercise enables you to see if you unconsciously hold your belly tense or conversely, let it be limp. Ideally, you don’t want your belly either tense or limp but rather engaged—energized and relaxed at the same time.
Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, place your hands on your belly, and take a deep inhale through the nose all the way up to the top of your breath. As you start your inhale the belly opens out and makes room for the lungs to fill, the ribcage widens and the chest lifts.
When you get to the top of you breath blow out slowly through slightly puckered lips all the way down to the bottom of the exhale until you run out of air. Use your abdominal muscles when you get to the bottom of your breath to push the last bit of air out of your lungs.
When you have emptied your lungs as much as you can, the next inhale will happen naturally. In this way your whole torso works efficiently as the bellows it’s designed to be, taking in fresh air and getting rid of the old stale air.
Do this breath five times, and with each new breath see if you can use your abdominal muscles to get more movement in your torso. This exercise should take you thirty seconds to a minute.
The Sighing Breath
After you have taken several deep belly breaths, take a quick inhale with an open mouth and exhale through the mouth in a deep sigh. Take three quick sighs in this way and notice how this breath is felt mostly in the shoulders, upper chest and upper back. Don’t lift your shoulders as you breathe and don’t hold your breath at the top of your inhale.
As you inhale and exhale, the chest quickly fills and releases, the upper back widens and releases. Make it a smooth breath in and a smooth breath out. If you’re in a private place, you may enjoy vocalizing the sigh in a "hah" sound. This exercise will typically take about ten to thirty seconds.
Taking a Felt-Sense Inventory
After you have taken several belly breaths and a few deep sighing breaths tune into the sensations in your torso. With your eyes closed, scan your body and notice any tension you may feel in your emotional center, that area of your body between your head and your pelvis. If you notice tension, breathe deeply and see if you can let go and relax.
HEAD: Start with the top of your head, forehead, eyes, cheeks, mouth and jaw, breathe deeply and see if any of these areas are tight. Tension here is usually a sign of mental stress, negative thinking, and a tendency to overanalyze situations and to try to figure things out. A tight mouth and jaw can be a sign of anger. Breathe deeply and relax.
THROAT: Take a deep sigh and tune into your throat and see if you have a grip or lump in your throat. A grip is often a sign of anxiety; a lump usually has to do with feeling sad. Breathe deeply and relax.
CHEST: Take another deep sigh and check your chest. See if there is a weight on your chest, a band around your chest, or a grip in the center of the chest. A weight suggests you’re feeling hurt or disappointed. A grip or band usually indicates anxiety. Breathe deeply and relax.
DIAPHRAGM: From there take a sigh and feel for any knot in your diaphragm. A knot here is likely a sign of guilt, feelings of responsibility and obligation. Breathe deeply and relax.
BELLY: Check your belly and see if you have a knot in your belly or butterflies. A knot can be fear or anger. A feeling of butterflies usually means dread about the future. Breathe deeply and relax.
PELVIS: Finally, take a deep sigh and see if there is any tension in your genitals, thighs, or buttocks. Make a mental note of any tension here, which often indicates feelings of shame. Breathe deeply and relax.
Whenever you feel stressed and tense, do a few deep belly breaths and blow out some of the stress you feel. Ask yourself what else you might do to safely and effectively deal with the situation to reduce your stress and be more relaxed.
This exercise is also known as self-regulation of stress and it can be very helpful even after only a minute or two of practice.