belly-breathingHere’s a Playful and Effective Breathing Tool

It will Deepen your Breath and Bring You Back into Your Body

Do you have tight shoulders? A stiff neck? Do you think too much? Ever catch yourself not breathing? When you are busy: driving, on the phone, at the computer, making meals, and juggling a dozen demands, you are concentrating; your energy is in your head, and you aren’t breathing fully. Unfortunately this is normal for most of us with busy lives. Too much time in your head and breathing minimally throws you off balance and escalates into stress, tension, and worse: dis-ease. The beautiful thing is that the remedy is easy, portable, and free.


At some point when you were a kid, you probably said, “Look Mom, I’m fat,” while puffing out your belly. You were simply having fun and exploring what your body can do. Now, to deepen your breath and bring yourself out of our head, drop your attention to your belly and puff it out. Yes, I mean, do this now. Let your lungs fill from the bottom up. This pulls energy out of your head and lets it flow into your body. It may not be easy the first time but keep doing it until it feels more normal. Smile as you reconnect with the child-like exploration of what your body can do.

Play with this throughout your day

Play with this throughout your day. It’s not like you’re ever finished breathing – if you’re alive. Look for the transitions between tasks as opportunities to take a bull belly breath and reset your energy and intention.

Pay attention when your neck is tight and your shoulders start to creep upward. When you notice you have been breathing shallowly or hardly at all, that’s your cue to throw your belly out and breathe! Rather than beat yourself up – about anything – appreciate your moment of awareness and affirm your efforts to take better care of yourself. That’s one more full breath that you might not have taken otherwise. It takes time and consciousness to change a habit and each full breath deepens the groove of calm, replenishment and centeredness.

If you have trouble doing things for yourself, do it for your kids, first. Your kids are tuned in to you and will most likely mirror back your efforts immediately.

Drama & stress as training ground

I noticed that when my kids fought, my tension about their fighting escalated their conflict. For years I had been telling people to breathe into their physical tension and I realized this was a perfect arena to practice what I preach. I promised myself I’d take ten full breaths before intervening in any way the next

time they tangled. I was even looking forward to their next fight so I could practice.

Soon enough I heard an argument brewing. I stopped what I was doing and deepened my breath into my belly. When I went to check if there was any physical damage, I was calm and centered and could listen to their stories without bringing my own charge to it. They worked out their own solution in record time.


As their arguments got more sophisticated, I would just stand there taking belly breaths – sometimes within their view, sometimes not – with the intention to hold the space and bring in more light and energy without

squashing their process. It worked really well. Most times, just that extra “space” brought into the arena was enough for them to find peace. Even with one of them on the mainland now, I find plenty of opportunities to practice breathing and holding the space for ease. I can do this when other people are involved or just for myself. It’s a great tool and it’s available to me if I allow it. I always feel better when I breathe like a kid having fun with her body.

**This article appeared in the Feb 2015 issue of The Maui Mama magazine.

More resources

For more great insights, tips and exercises, check out Issues in Your Tissues: Heal Body and Emotion from the Inside Out by Denise LaBarre. Get your copy now.

Go to for professional level insights about how to add this to your psychology or counseling practice.