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:
- Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing;
- Thoracic or chest breathing; and
- 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
- Lie in Shavasana and relax the whole body.
- Allow the breath to become spontaneous, regular and even. Do not control it in any way.
- Visualise the diaphragm as a sheet of muscle beneath the lungs, focusing the awareness at the bottom of the sternum.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increase your awareness of the movement of this interface between the chest and abdomen, and how its rhythmic motion produces spontaneous abdominal breathing.
- There should be no tension in the abdominal or chest muscles – diaphragmatic breathing is not produced by the abdominal muscles.
- The movement of the diaphragm should feel comfortable – you should not feel any resistance.
- Continue with natural breathing for some time.
- 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.
- There should be no tension in the abdomen.
- Try not to force the movement of the abdomen.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- At the end of exhalation, the diaphragm will be totally relaxed, arching upwards into the chest cavity without any contraction of the abdominal muscles.
- Hold your breath out, without any strain, for a second or so.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply from the diaphragm.
- Try not to expand the chest or move the shoulders.
- Feel your abdomen expanding and the navel rising up.
- Fill the lungs as much as possible without expanding the ribcage.
- Hold your breath in, without effort, for a second or two.
- Then with control, exhale again slowly and completely, pushing all the air out of the lungs. Again, feel your navel moving towards the spine.
- Hold the breath out for a short time then inhale.
- Repeat the whole process.
- Continue this practice for 25 respiration or up to 10 minutes if time is available.