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basic breathing techniques

Breathing techniques and how to do them properly

Before practicing Pranayama, we need to become more aware of our breathing generally. This post will provide techniques for basic breathing methods.

BASIC BREATHING METHODS

There are three basic mechanisms of breathing:

  1. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing;
  2. Thoracic or chest breathing; and
  3. Clavicular breathing.

Although abdominal breathing is not natural for many people, with persistence, abdominal breathing does become automatic.  Practice first in Shavasana, then in a sitting or standing position.

 

Technique Stage 1:  Natural abdominal breathing

  1.  Lie in Shavasana and relax the whole body.
  2. Allow the breath to become spontaneous, regular and even.  Do not control it in any way.
  3. Visualise the diaphragm as a sheet of muscle beneath the lungs, focusing the awareness at the bottom of the sternum.
  4. Inhale and visualise this dome-shaped sheet of muscle flattening out and pushing down on the abdominal organs below it, while the air is being drawn into the lungs.
  5. As you breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes.  Feel it move upward again to resume its dome-shaped position beneath the sternum, pushing the air out of the lungs and releasing pressure on the abdominal organs.
  6. Increase your awareness of the movement of this interface between the chest and abdomen, and how its rhythmic motion produces spontaneous abdominal breathing.
  7. There should be no tension in the abdominal or chest muscles – diaphragmatic breathing is not produced by the abdominal muscles.
  8. The movement of the diaphragm should feel comfortable – you should not feel any resistance.
  9. Continue with natural breathing for some time.
  10. Now place your right hand on the abdomen just above the navel, and the left hand over the centre of the chest.  With abdominal breathing you will feel your right hand moving up with inhalation and down with exhalation.
  11.  There should be no tension in the abdomen.
  12. Try not to force the movement of the abdomen.
  13. Your left hand should not move with the breath, but try to feel the expansion and contraction of the lungs by means of the breath.
  14. Continue for a few minutes until you feel that only the diaphragm is doing all the work in the breathing process.

Technique Stage 2:  Controlled abdominal breathing

  1. Inhale, then exhale slowly and completely using the diaphragm – it is the movement of the diaphragm that is responsible for abdominal breathing.  Feel the abdomen and navel moving down towards the spine.
  2. At the end of exhalation, the diaphragm will be totally relaxed, arching upwards into the chest cavity without any contraction of the abdominal muscles.
  3. Hold your breath out, without any strain, for a second or so.
  4. Breathe in slowly and deeply from the diaphragm.
  5. Try not to expand the chest or move the shoulders.
  6. Feel your abdomen expanding and the navel rising up.
  7. Fill the lungs as much as possible without expanding the ribcage.
  8. Hold your breath in, without effort, for a second or two.  
  9.  Then with control, exhale again slowly and completely, pushing all the air out of the lungs.  Again, feel your navel moving towards the spine.
  10. Hold the breath out for a short time then inhale.
  11. Repeat the whole process.
  12. Continue this practice for 25 respiration or up to 10 minutes if time is available.

Learning to breathe effectively is a key to control your mind

Complete yogic breathing

Technique:  

  1. Lie down in Shavasana and relax the whole body.
  2. Inhale slowly from the diaphragm, allowing the abdomen to expand fully.
  3. Try to breathe so slowly and deeply that little or no sound can be heard from the breath.
  4. Feel the air reaching into the bottom of the lungs.
  5. After full abdominal expansion, start to expand the chest outwards and upwards.
  6. At the end of this movement inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the base of the neck.  The shoulders and collar bones should also move up slightly.  Slight tension will be felt in the neck muscles.
  7. Feel the air filling the upper lobes of the lungs.
  8. This completes one inhalation.
  9. The whole process should be one continuous movement, each phase of the breath merging into the next without any obvious demarcation point.
  10. There should be no jerking or unnecessary strain; the breathing should be like the swell of the sea.
  11. Now start to exhale.
  12. First relax your collar bone and shoulders, then allow your chest to contract, downward initially, and then inward.
  13. Next, allow the diaphragm to push upwards into the chest cavity.
  14. Without straining, try to empty the lungs as much as possible by pulling the abdominal wall down towards the spine while simultaneously contracting the ribcage further, in a smooth, harmonious movement.
  15. This completes one round of breathing.
  16. Continue in this manner for some time.
  17. Hold your breath for a second or two at the end of each inhalation and exhalation.
  18. As you practice, feel the whole expansion and contraction of the lungs and the wonderful exhilaration this produces.
  19. Complete 10 rounds of full yogic breathing.
  20. Slowly increase this to 10 minutes daily but do not strain the lungs in any way.
  21. Once this has been mastered in Shavasana, practice in the sitting position.