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Reverse abdominal breathing – Relieving inner stress effectively

“The pattern of reverse abdominal breathing can be combined with the recognition and feeling of stress, thus enabling us to feel confident about releasing tension & stress, even if it feels strong and intractable”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at a traditional Qi gong breathing technique that, as well as the physical health benefits, I also find particularly effective for regulating my psychological & somatic tension. If you enjoy the article then we will be exploring reverse abdominal breathing in this week’s Tuesday & Wednesday meditation class, and in the Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat on Saturday. 

In the spirit of in the spirit of positive reversals,


Reverse abdominal breathing – Relieving inner stress effectively
Reverse abdominal breathing is a traditional form of Qi gong breathing practice that is designed to promote the circulation of qi/life-force in your body, and particularly in your abdominal region. The pressure it creates gives a massaging effect to your abdominal organs which is very good for their (and your) health.
Psychological & somatic stress
As well as the physical benefits, R-A breathing can also help you regulate your mental stress effectively. Our mental and emotional stress builds up as a felt-tension in our physical body, that can be quite difficult to release and let go of. The pattern of R-A breathing can be combined with the recognition and feeling of that stress, thus enabling us to feel confident about releasing stress, even if it feels strong and intractable.
Reverse abdominal breathing – The practice
Step 1: Establishing basic functional breathing
Sitting or standing in a comfortably upright position, relax your shoulders and chest. Breathe in through the nose, extending the air down into your lower lungs. Feel yourself activating your diaphragm as you inhale. As you do this you will feel your belly moving out gently, and then moving back to resting position as you breathe out (breathe out through the nose or mouth). This pattern of breathing is your basic functional breath, enjoy breathing in this way for a short while.
Step 2: Contracting the pelvic floor
Now as you breathe in, gently contract the muscles in your pelvic floor, to about 30% of their strength. If you do this, you will notice the downward pressure of the diaphragm and the upward pressure of the pelvic floor creates a gentle squeezing effect on the abdominal organs. Relax the pelvic floor as you exhale. Get used to this pattern of breathing for a few breaths.
Step 3: Contracting the abdominal wall
As you breathe in, contract the pelvic floor, and at the same time gently contract the abdomen, so that your belly cannot move out as the pressure builds from the descending diaphragm. You will feel a ‘pressure cooker’ effect on the abdominal organs as you inhale, that is then released as you exhale. This is the reverse abdominal breathing technique. Stay with this for a few breaths, noticing the building & releasing of pressure.
Step 4: Combining reverse abdominal breathing with stress release
As you breathe in allow yourself to feel some of your psychological and emotional stress from the day. Feel it to be centring in your belly as the pressure builds, then, as you exhale, feel yourself releasing the stress as you release into your exhalation. You can to this for say 3-6sets of six breaths, taking small pauses in between to relax.
At the end it’s a good idea if you have the time to just go back to your basic functional breathing and meditate, enjoying the feeling of release and relaxation that has come from the R-A breathing.
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© Toby Ouvry 2023, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby  (East Coast)

Ongoing Tues/Weds in August/Sept – The Wisdom of Awakening Series: Meditations for developing wisdom around inner-growth, happiness & fulfillment

Saturday July 15th, 9.30-11.30am – Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat

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