Breathing Exercises: Flatten Your Belly Each Day in Five Minutes -- Exercise #1

02/01/2011 05:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Posture, alignment, core strength and eating just enough, not more: these are the keys to a flatter tummy.

One need not muse that doing endless crunches will unearth those flat and firm abdominal muscles. One must understand that it is a matter of balancing your midriff, aligning your spine and keeping cortisol at bay.

The best way to begin accomplishing all of these things in just five minutes per day is to adjust your breathing.

By taking just five minutes per day to tune into your body and learn to breath deeply, you will start to reduce cortisol levels and help restore spinal neutrality, both of which are key components of achieving the flat ab look you're after.

Let's begin with a very simple five minute breathing exercise to check in with your state of breath:

Start by sitting on the floor, legs crossed. Close your eyes.

Take a slow, deep breath, drawing all the way down to the point below your belly button. Take note of whether your shoulder blades are drawing up toward your ears! This is one of the most common signs of spinal misalignment.

Notice the areas in your upper lungs, spine and ribcage where you might ache or 'stick.'

Notice whether your diaphragm is having any trouble drawing breath down and into your lungs. Stress will prevent you from breathing as deeply as possible, contributing to your maligned spine and sticky spots.

Release the breath slow and long. Imagine tension and stress leaving your body on the exhale.

Suck in another slow and deep breath, imagining it pouring down your spinal column, touching each and every one of your vertebrae, all the way down to your sacrum.

Notice again how there may be 'stuck' spots along the spine where you are out of alignment. Rather than resisting or cringing, try to breath into and through these tiny pains and hitches.

Release the 'stuck' energy via the breath.

Repeat this awareness building breath until you've moved through all of your stuck spots. You may notice that you're clenching your jaw in response to releasing another place in your body. This is great! If you notice this, you will have revealed to yourself where some of your energy is misplaced and out of balance. You are in the act of breathing through your stress and pain into better posture!

Continue breathing in this manner, making note of all 'stuck' spots and focusing on releasing and breathing through them, for a minimum of five minutes each day.

Do this for one week. As you pursue the maximum capacity for filling your lungs and your body with oxygen and breath, you will feel yourself returning to a natural state of alignment upon which we can build a strong core and soothe the stress hormones responsible for the cravings, overindulgence and retention of belly fat so many of us are battling in today's high-stress world.

Tune in to the next article in this series for the next step on your path to building a better body and allowing your flat belly to reveal itself to you.

Breathe and be well!