BREATHING TECHNIQUES

NATURAL BREATHING

This is a technique which familiarize practitioners to their own respiratory system and breathing patterns. It is very soothing and may be practiced at any time. Awareness of the breathing process is itself enough to slow down the respiratory rate and establish a more relaxed rhythm.

Natural breathing

Sit in a comfortable meditative posture and relax the whole body. Notice the natural and spontaneous breathing process. Develop complete awareness of the rhythmic flow of the breath. Feel and observe the breath flowing in and out of the nose. Do not control the breath forcefully. Observe that the breath is cool as it enters the nostrils and warm as it flows out. Notice this with the attitude of a detached witness. Observe the breath flowing in and out at the back of the mouth above the throat. Bring the perception down to the region of the throat and feel the breath flowing in the throat. Bring the attention down to the region of the chest and feel the breath flowing in the trachea and bronchial tubes. Next, notice the breath flowing in the lungs. Be attentive of the lungs expanding and relaxing. Transfer the attention to the rib cage and observe the expansion and relaxation of this area. Bring the perception down to the abdomen. Notice the abdomen move upward on inhalation .Finally, become perceptive of the whole breathing process from the nostrils to the abdomen and continue observing it for some time. Bring the perception back to observing the physical body as one unit and open the eyes.

ABDOMINAL BREATHING

Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is practiced by improving the action of the diaphragm and minimizing the action of the rib cage. The diaphragm is a domed sheet of muscle that divides the lungs from the abdominal cavity and, when functioning correctly, enhances the most efficient type of breathing. Reactivity to the muscle itself, however, will come with the practice. During inhalation the diaphragm moves downward, shove the abdominal contents downward and outward. When breathing out the diaphragm moves upward and the abdominal contents move inward.

Movement of the diaphragm indicates that the lower lobes of the lungs are being utilized. The correct use of the diaphragm causes equal expansion of the alveoli, improves lymphatic drainage from basal parts of the lungs, and massages the liver, stomach, small and large intestines and other organs that lie exactly beneath it, exerts effect on the cardiac functions and improves oxygenation of the blood. Abdominal breathing is the most natural and efficient method to breathe. Because of poor posture, restrictive clothing, tension and lack of training, however, it is often forgotten. Once this practice again becomes a part of daily life and correct breathing is reserved, there will be significant improvement in the state of physical and mental wellbeing.

Abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing

Lie in shavasana and relax the entire body. Observe the breath and don’t control it. Let it be entirely natural. Continue noticing the natural breath for some time. Place the right hand on the abdomen just above the umbilicus and the left hand over the chest. The right hand will move up with breathing in and down with breathing out.

There should be no strain in the abdomen. Do not try to force the movement in any way. Try not to expand the chest or move shoulder. Observe the abdomen expanding and contracting. Continue breathing gently and deeply. Inhale while expanding the abdomen as much as possible, without expansion of the rib cage. At the end of the inhalation the diaphragm will be compressing the abdomen and the umbilicus will be at its highest point. On breathing out the diaphragm moves upward and the abdomen moves downward. At the end of the exhalation the abdomen will be squeezed and the navel compressed towards the spine. Continue for a few minutes.

THORACIC BREATHING

Thoracic breathing use the middle lobes of the lungs by expanding and contracting the rib cage. It spends more energy than abdominal breathing for the same quantity of air exchange. It is often affiliated with physical exercise and exertion, when it helps the body to obtain more oxygen. However, the tendency in many people is to resume this type of breathing long after the stressful situation has passed, creating bad breathing habits and sustained tension.

Thoracic breathing

Sit in a meditation posture or lie in shavasana and relax the entire body. Maintain unbroken alertness of the natural breath for some time, emphasizing on the sides of the chest. Stop any further use of the diaphragm and start to inhale by gently expanding the rib cage. Observe the movement of the individual ribs outward and upward, and be attentive of this expansion drawing air into the lungs. Unravel the chest as much as possible. Breathe out by relaxing the chest muscles. Feel the rib cage contracting and forcefully push the air out of the lungs. Breathe gently and deeply through the chest with complete awareness. Do not use the diaphragm. Resume the thoracic breathing for a few minutes, pausing after each inhalation and exhalation.

CLAVICULAR BREATHING

Clavicular breathing is the last stage of total rib cage expansion. It happens after the thoracic inhalation has been completed. To absorb a little more air into the lungs, the upper ribs and the collar bone are pulled upwards by the muscles of the neck, sternum and throat. This needs maximum expansion on inhalation and only the upper lobes of the lungs are being ventilated. In regular life, clavicular breathing is only used under conditions of extreme physical exertion and when patient is suffering from obstructive airway diseases such as asthma.

Clavicular breathing

Lie in shavasana and relax the entire body. Practice thoracic breathing for a few minutes. Inhale, expand the rib cage fully. When the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the lower region of the neck. Collar bones and shoulders should also move up slightly. Exhale gently, first relaxing the lower neck and upper chest, then relax the rest of the rib cage back to its beginning position.

YOGIC BREATHING

Yogic breathing composed of previous three techniques. It is used to raise inhalation and exhalation capability. Its purpose is to improve control of the breath, correct bad breathing habits and increase oxygen intake. It may be performed at any time and is especially useful in situations of high stress, anxiety or anger for calming the nerves.

Yogic breathing

Sit in a meditation posture or lie in shavasana and relax the complete body. Inhale gently and deeply, allow the abdomen to expand fully. Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound of the breath can be audible. Observe the air reaching up to the base of the lungs.

At the end of abdominal expansion, begin to expand the chest outward and upward. When the ribs are completely expanded, breathe in a little bit more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the lowest region of the neck. The shoulders and collar bone should also lift up slightly. Some strain will be felt in the neck muscles. The rest of the body should be relaxed. Observe the air filling the upper lobes of the lungs.

This completes one inhalation. The entire process should be one continuous movement, every phase of breathing merging into the next without any exact transition point. There should be no jerks or

unnecessary stress. Now begin to exhale. First, relieve the lower neck and upper chest, then support the chest to contract downward and then inward. Next, allow the diaphragm to shove upward and toward the chest. Without straining, try to empty the lungs as much as possible by drawing up the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine. The entire movement should be harmonious, peacefully and flowing. Retain the breath for a few seconds at the end of exhalation. This will completes one round of yogic breathing. At first perform 5 to 10 rounds and gradually increase to 10 minutes daily.