How to Improve Your Breathing

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Our first action when born is an inhalation.  This provides us with oxygen, the component that every living thing needs to live and thrive.   Plants take in oxygen through their pores, fish take it in using their gills, and we mammals have lungs.                The act of breathing is considered automatic, but those who have studied practice, Qi Gong or some types of Meditation may have discovered that it can be controlled.    And how we breath directly affects how we feel and impacts our health.

When I was young I enjoyed watching cowboy movies on television.  I  often saw the actors shot and appeared to be dead.  I realized that it wasn’t real, but how come their chest were not moving?  I pretended to be shot and would lie on my living room floor and hold my breath, but I couldn’t do it long.   Eventually I discovered a method to breath without moving my chest.   I kept my chest muscles tight so it didn’t move. My belly started to rise and fall a bit, but my shirt didn’t move.  I looked ‘dead’. It worked. I could do it for long periods of time.    Several years later, when learning Yoga, I realized that I had already taught myself abdominal breathing.

ABDOMINAL/DIAPHRAM BREATHING   This type of breathing is accomplished by deliberately pulling your diaphragm  muscle down towards your belly with each inhalation.  This enlarges your chest cavity which creates a vacuum and air rushes in and expands your belly area.    * If you GOOGLE ‘Diaphragm in Action – Video’ you can access several  YouTube animations that will aid in your understanding of this action.                     When we breath in this manner it relaxes us, lowers effects of the stress hormone cortisol, and also lowers both heart rate and blood pressure.   Using this breath technique can calm and bring peace of mind and also might be helpful if you are having trouble breathing.      The air pressure produced by the diaphragm movement also produces a gentle massage and stimulation to all of the organs in the abdominal area.   Which simulates stomach, liver, intestines, etc. and increases the circulation of blood, lymph, and Qi throughout your body.   All of which can heal and aid in maintaining your optimal health.   

In Qi Gong we refer to this type of breathing as Lower Dantien/lower energy center breathing.   After much practice you may also feel the bones of your sacrum and pelvis moving minutely with each breath coordinated with your abdominal movements activating the powerful energy reservoir that controls our vitality.                                                                  

FULL BODY BREATHING            Of course we wish to optimize our breathing in order to get the maximum amount of oxygen into our system with each breath in a efficient relaxed manner                                                                                                                              For twenty five years  I taught Yoga, and I would always teach abdominal breathing since  most people are chest breathers.   If you breath mostly into the chest you may not be using the full capacity of your lungs and getting as much oxygen as is possible with each breath.  The intercostal muscles, found between each rib, contract and expand with each cycle and the scalene muscles of the front of the neck, attached to the top ribs, raise and lower with inhalations and exhalations.    So they, in conjunction with the diaphragm allow the lungs to expand fully in a relaxed manner.  Your lungs surround the heart, so as they expand and fill with air they gently compress and release creating a gentle massage of the your heart muscle.   So I recommend a full body breath, first breathing into your belly and lower dantien and then filling the middle and upper chest before relaxing completely and allowing a full exhalation.    Try it and you will soon find a rhythm that suits you and seems natural.       Let me know how you do.

Several Masters that I have studied with are offering online courses in February            Robert Peng – Yi Jin Jing – starting February 13                            Ken Cohen – Tai Chi – starts February 3

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