There’s nothing that reveals your inner state more than your breathing.
If you’re in good health, happy and totally in control of yourself, your breathing is deep, slow and rhythmic. If you’re nervous, your breathing will, on the contrary, be rapid and shallow. Worse still, if you’re anxious or worried, you tend to gasp and catch your breath. And, if you’re irritable, your breathing pattern is irregular and non-rhythmic.
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Poor breathers inhale intensely, sucking in the stomach, raising the shoulders and distending the neck, whereas good breathers start by exhaling – with their stomachs held in. When they release all the air and their lungs are almost empty, their bodies demand more. The diaphragm acts as a pump, the stomach swells, and the air floods in again effortlessly.
Another thing, good breathing is full, deep and slow. It has is own rhythm, and is little altered by emotional fluctuations.
So how do we get to breathe WELL?
Stretch out on the floor with your feet slightly apart, arms away from the body, toes pointing outward with palms facing the ceiling. This position is ideal for the fullest possible expansion of the rib cage because your chest, ribs and shoulders are completely relaxed.
Now, try to visualize a small cork floating on your navel, rising and falling perfectly evenly with the movement of the waves. But, of course, observing your breathing is difficult to accomplish because, as soon as you focus on it, this acts disturbs the rhythm.
In this same position, inhale through the nose with a slight whistling sound. The stomach swells. Focus on feeling the air, and follow the air pathway through your nose, throat and larynx, finally making its way to the lungs.
With your lungs full, hold your breath a moment, then exhale again through the nose, tightly closing your mouth. The stomach will automatically be sucked in as you do this.
You should practise this kind of breathing often – in different weather, standing, sitting or lying in bed. This type of breathing massages the viscera, controls our impulses and psyche, and helps to regulate all the body’s natural functions.
This type of breathing involves breathing with balance or super breathing. This can be done all through the day, but never more than twice consecutively, and should be done after a few minutes of abdominal breathing.
Both inhalation and exhalation are carried out three stages. Lie in the natural breathing position, exhale normally. Then:
- Breathe in as though preparing for a deep sigh. Breathe with your mouth closed, pushing out the stomach (similar to abdominal breathing)
- The rib cage expands.
- Collarbones rise. Hold in the resulting lungful of air (apnea) for about 5 seconds. Exhale , still breathing through the nose, with the mouth closed.
- Collarbones subside.
- Ribs follow suit.
- Diaphragm returns to normal position and stomach flattens out. Remain like this with empty lungs (dyspnea) for a further five seconds, before resuming normal breathing.
Later you can extend the periods when the lungs are full or empty for up to 16 seconds, but ensure the two are always exactly equal in length. The exercise is successful when it brings a feeling of well-being, but fails if, when the lungs are empty, you experience a feeling of suffocation.
Total breathing brings all the benefits of abdominal breathing. In addition:
- It completely aerates the lungs
- It increases the area of mucous membrane in the lung exposed to fresh air. With the blood better oxygenated, it stimulates the internal organs, and thus combats fatigue.
- Holding the breath creates an extremely strong pressure, followed by an absence of pressure, making the lungs work at full
Sit cross-legged on your heels or on a chair with your back perfectly straight. Keep the body flexible, spine supple and head very lightly balanced – as though suspended from the ceiling by a wire. The nape of the neck is stretched, with the chin tucked in.
Place right thumb on right nostril, with right index and middle fingers pressed against the forehead, with ring finger of right hand pointing down against the left nostril. With the thumb, press against right nostril to close the passage of air, and inhale slowly and deeply through left nostril. Press ring finger of left nostril, closing the passage, and release thumb pressure against right nostril.
Repeat sequence, inhaling through right nostril, and out through left. Continue until you’ve completed exercise seven times. This should NOT be attempted more than twice a day.
This type or breathing calms the nervous system and forces you to breathe extremely slowly, causing the lung’s inner cells to develop gradually and evenly.
Dead leaf breathing
This is a complete breathing system, associated with another relaxation technique. To begin, kneel on the floor with your toes stretched behind. Sit back on heels and breathe out, slightly pulling in stomach. Still kneeling, raise your thighs, torso and arms to a vertical position, extending as high as possible.
Inhale, then return to your heels – this time bending your torso forward, stretching arms out in front, and placing your head between them. Exhale and rest a few minutes in this position.