When women are fed up with their belly bulge (or mummy tummy), they start asking questions about nutrition and exercise.
Should I do more crunches? (we answer that one here)
Should I cut out carbs? (let's not open that can of worms).
But, for most women I talk to, they have tried all the things (cutting calories, exercising more, potions and lotions). Still, they aren't seeing the results they desire around the middle. Few actually believe me when I tell them that their breathing may be the missing piece of the picture.
Although we do it all day every day, most of us don't breathe correctly. In fact, many of us barely breathe at all. It may be enough to survive (the whole oxygen in and carbon dioxide out), but not in a way that brings health and vitality.
Let's explore 3 ways that breathing can improve your body and even flatten your stomach.
1. Relaxing the nervous system
When we experience everyday stresses, our body releases stress hormones. Over time, these hormones pack on the pounds, especially around the middle. It's actually so very smart of your body to protect your internal organs during a time of danger. Problem is, our stress these days are usually not life-threatening.
By breathing deeply, we relax the nervous system. In just 5 minutes a day of deep breathing, you can start to reduce the stress hormone levels which allows your body to let go of that stubborn abdominal fat.
2. Engaging the Core Muscles
The core muscles are not just the coveted six-pack abs. When we talk about engaging the core muscles this also includes the back, hips, pelvic floor, and diaphragm. They work together and are each affected by the others.
The diaphragm is the muscle below your rib cage that will expand into your abdomen when your lungs expand during a deep breath. As it expands and contracts it activates the other core muscles and improves their flexibility.
3. Optimal Digestion
There is no way you can have a flat stomach when you are bloated or constipated. So improving digestion can be key to achieving a lean middle. Breathing can actually affect digestion in two ways.
First, when those stress hormones are high your body slows down digestive processes. It has more important things to worry about and expend its energy on. Breathing signals your body to go into "rest and digest" mode which will allow your body to absorb the nutrients from your food effectively and move it on through the system.
Secondly, as the diaphragm muscle engages to increase the capacity of the lungs with deeper breathing, it almost gives you an internal massage. It positively impacts digestion in many ways - and healthy digestion helps eliminate excess fat and bloat from the belly.
Give this a try . . . .
Start by lying down and getting comfortable. Take in a slow, deep breath allowing your stomach to expand all the way down below your belly button. Feel your stomach going both up toward the ceiling and your ribs expanding wide. Make sure your shoulders aren't drawing up toward your ears while you do this.
Next, release the breath long and slow. Imagine all the stress of your day leaving your body through that exhale. When you get to the very end of the exhale, pull your belly button toward the floor and try to get every last bit of air out.
Repeat this several times to fulling fill your body with oxygen, activate your core muscles, and return your body to a calm, natural state. Over time, you should feel stronger and more in control of your body. In this state, you will have fewer cravings to overindulge and your body will more easily let go of excess belly fat.
Doesn't this sound much more enjoyable than doing thousands of sit-ups?
When you do incorporate abdominal strengthening exercises into your workout, be sure to breathe properly then as well. It's key to building a strong and balanced core that leads to a smaller waistline. Improper breathing can just build girth instead which actually makes your middle larger.
If you have further questions on breathing for stress relief, the role of stress in fat storage or the correct abdominal exercises for a toned belly consider reaching out to our wellness coach. You can learn more by clicking the button below or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org