A great way to learn more about how your body breathes is to spend some time using the hands to feel the movement of the body with the inhalation and exhalation. Using your hands in this way helps to bring your awareness to the relevant part of the body and the touch can also enhance your breath into this area. This simple practice can be enjoyable and relaxing to do at night just before you go to sleep, or a way of recharging your batteries if you have a spare 10 minutes at any time in the day.
Start by lying in semi-supine and place your hands on your belly so your fingers are barely touching in the middle. As you inhale, the breathe moves down into the lungs and there is a gentle rise in the belly. You may feel your hands lifting, perhaps the fingers will move further apart. Focus on this movement, feel the sensation of the body breathing beneath your palms. If you don’t feel much (or anything!), don’t worry, just imagine the subtle movements taking place.
After a few minutes, when you feel ready, move your hands a little higher so they are now resting on the lower ribs. Again, aim to position them comfortable to they can rest with the middle fingers touching if possible. Now focus your awareness on the movement of the rib cage as you breathe. You may feel the fingers move apart as you did with the belly. In addition you may feel a sideways movement under palm of each hand.
The final stage is to move your hands to rest on or near your shoulders or collarbones, to sense the movement in the upper chest. Find a position that allows your arms to relax, ideally with your elbows touching the floor. The movement here may be more subtle, as the breath moves into the uppermost part of the lungs.
And that’s it. After this final stage, you might like to rest the arms beside you and relax for a few more minutes before you get up. Stay with an awareness of the body inhaling and exhaling, imaging the breathing moving into each of these parts of the lungs as it brings new energy into the body.