healers have for centuries described breathing as man's window to the
emotions. The truth of this statement is easily argued. When you are calm and
relaxed, your breathing is slow and rhythmic. When tense, anxious or
frightened, your breathing becomes irregular and shallow. Deep breathing has
long been known to have relaxing properties. Oxygen itself tends to
revitalize; it both energizes and relaxes as we cleanse our system.
From calming someone down by taking ten deep breaths right through to yoga
relaxation and Zen meditation, it is a core component of almost everything. It
works well in conjunction with other relaxation techniques such as Progressive
Muscular Relaxation, Imagery and Meditation to reduce stress.
Our overall health depends on
many factors, but one of the most important is how we breathe. Because of the
increasing stress in our lives, our unhealthy sedentary life styles, and the
prevailing image of the hard, flat belly that we find in fashion magazines and
health clubs across America, our breathing has become extremely superficial.
We have been breathing all our
lives, but have you ever wondered how?????
The lungs are enclosed in a cage
bounded below by the diaphragm and at the sides by the chest wall. Breathing
works by making the cage bigger.
Essentially their are three
groups of muscles responsible for the act of inspiration. They are:
- Diaphragm, which is a
muscular sheath separating the chest from the stomach, and is the main
component. (Unfortunately, most people don't make use of it!!!!!!!)
Diaphragm is a convex dome. When it contracts it flattens and increases
the space above it thus allowing air to be sucked into the lungs.
- Intercostal group of muscles,
placed in between the ribs they are responsible for expansion of the
chest. They cause the ribs to move up and out, increasing the space
- Accessory group, essentially
neck muscles which are rarely used in normal daily breathing.
relaxed breathing, your stomach will gently move up and down as you breath in
and out. This is due to the fact that the diaphragm presses down on contents
of your stomach during inspiration causing it to bulge out. A new born
child breathes with the abdomen. As the child gets older, breathing becomes
partially intercostal ( i.e. chest breathing). During adult life most of us
breathe only through the chest. Abdominal breathing (maximal use of the
diaphragm) is almost forgotten. So much so that when the person tries to
inhale, his chest expands but the abdomen moves in, which is abnormal. It
makes the breathing process less effective. Lower lobes of the lungs are
perfused with greater amount of blood than the upper and middle lobes. By
abdominal breathing lower lobes get properly ventilated. Unfortunately,
most people do not make use of their diaphragm, and breath with the help of
their chest muscles. If all the movement comes from your chest then not only
are you underutilizing the capacity of your lungs, but your breathing is also
It has been noted that during
sleep and relaxed state the breathing automatically becomes abdominal. During
anxiety state breathing becomes rapid and is fully inter-costal. When the
individual purposely breathes slowly and deeply through the abdomen the effect
of stress on the body is reduced. This is borne out by favourable change in
the brain wave pattern (alpha) during slow abdominal breathing.
To practise abdominal breathing,
sit comfortably with your back straight. Always breathe through the nose which
filters warm air. Place your right hand on the chest and left hand on your
abdomen. This will help you to be aware of your abdominal muscles as you
breathe. As you begin to inhale, your left hand on the abdomen should begin to
rise, but your right hand should move very little. Now exhale as much air as
you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. Once again your left hand
should move in as you exhale but your right hand should move very little. This
is abdominal breathing.
Breathing through your abdomen will gradually become automatic if you practice
it on regular basis. If you are having a hard time learning abdominal;
breathing, then lie on the floor in the resting position and gently place a
soft weight ( small book) on your abdomen. Abdominal breathing will cause the
weight to rise and fall with your respirations. Do not be disheartened by
early setbacks, its only a matter of time before it will become more of a
habit rather than a conscious exercise.
Time to move
and Easy Breathing Exercise
is not something you DO. Rather it is something which you ALLOW. The problem
is that we don't allow our breathing to occur smoothly, naturally and in a
relaxed manner. Doesn't matter whether you have been able to master abdominal
breathing or not, the next time you feel stressed, try this out:
down or lie down.
slowly and say to yourself "I am..."
slowly and say to yourself "relaxed."
a couple of times and very soon you will discover that a few nice deep breaths
can be so relaxing. It can be a quick and easy stress reliever. You can do
this anytime. You can do this anywhere. It is not visible to others.
5 Minutes Rejuvenator
Used once a day the following
exercise utilizes the lungs to capacity, and extracts great amounts of
"life force" from the air.
this exercise sitting, standing or lying down.
What is important is the position must be
comfortable allowing you to breathe freely and deeply. Place your finger tips
in the little pits under each collar-bone. Remember all through the exercise breathe
in through your nose
and exhale through your mouth.
deeply, contracting the belly.
slowly as you expand the abdomen. (Abdominal Breathing)
inhaling as you expand the chest. (Thoracic Breathing)
inhaling smoothly and
fully to feel your shoulder tips move. (Apical Lung Expansion)
for a few comfortable seconds.
in reverse pattern, slowly. Release shoulders, relax chest, contract the
Breathing fully is a
challenge, at first it might be difficult to do it smoothly. Initially it
might be a good idea to check whether you breath in a relaxed way. It
will require gentle practice in order that inhalation and exhalation be smooth
and balanced. Beginners should only do it 4 or 5 times continuously. Don't
worry if you find it difficult at first, keep practicing. You will know when
you are doing it right because each out breath will take you deeper and deeper
into the relaxation-experience. Once
the breathing has become smooth, focus your attention on your breathing.
Each out breath must be an act of relaxation. You must be very
conscious of this fact and concentrate on this aspect. Breathe
rhythmically. Once you have mastered it you can repeat this ten times once a
day either after waking up early in the morning or before going to bed. Very
soon you will notice the difference.