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Traditional 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 available. 
  • Accessory group, essentially neck muscles which are rarely used in normal daily breathing.

During normal 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 less relaxed.

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 on...................

Quick and Easy Breathing Exercise 

Breathing 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:

  • Sit down or lie down.
  • Inhale slowly and say to yourself "I am..."
  • Exhale slowly and say to yourself "relaxed."

Repeat 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.

The 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.


Try 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.

  • Exhale deeply, contracting the belly.

  • Inhale slowly as you expand the abdomen. (Abdominal Breathing)

  • Continue inhaling as you expand the chest. (Thoracic Breathing)

  • Continue inhaling smoothly and fully to feel your shoulder tips move. (Apical Lung Expansion)

  • Hold for a few comfortable seconds.

  • Exhale in reverse pattern, slowly. Release shoulders, relax chest, contract the belly.

  • Repeat.

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.