Exercise Your Breathing for Better Health
September 21, 2010 by Jeffrey R. Matthews
Oxygen deprivation, which is often caused by improper or obstructed breathing, is among the main causes of our everyday pain and ill health.
For starters, along with the intestines, bladder and skin, the lungs play a major role in toxic elimination. Proper breathing expedites the lung’s ability to expel carbon dioxide and toxic gases from the body while also diffusing fresh oxygen into the blood. When breathing is restricted, cellular activity is distressed and toxicity is increased. Since life is sustained primarily by adequate intake of oxygen, water and food, breathing properly is essential to good health.
There are innumerable ways in which one can benefit from the practice of deep breathing exercises like those taught in yoga, qigong and bio-feedback. Engaging in breathing exercises improves blood circulation and enriches the blood with more red blood cells. This increases the supply of oxygen to the tissues and promotes healthier tissues and organs.
The greater supply of oxygen enables the heart to pump slower while still providing enough oxygen to the body. Imbalances such as high blood pressure and rapid heart rate can be brought back to normal with prolonged, proper practice of breathing exercises.
When beginning a formal or informal program of deep breathing exercises it is essential that you remain relaxed and focused throughout each breath. Breathe slowly and steadily, physically expanding and contracting the respective areas of the body, as dictated by the exercise. I will share a few simple ones here.
To begin, stand comfortably, shoulders relaxed, with legs a comfortable shoulders-width apart and knees pointing straight ahead. Your arms should hang at your sides and your arms, hands and neck should be relaxed. (You may also do these while seated).
The chest breathing exercise helps the respiratory system and may be performed for five minutes at a time. Do not take big or loud breaths. Exhalations should last just slightly longer than the inhalations.
To begin chest breathing, pull the breath and fresh air into your lungs by expanding them to full capacity as you inhale through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily. Make sure to inflate the chest only. You may feel your stomach suck in slightly.
As you exhale, push the breath and stale gases out through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. Slowly contract your chest and lungs to their least capacity. You may feel your chest getting concave. Repeat for five minutes, and then stop.
Upper Stomach Breathing
The upper stomach breathing exercise helps the digestive system. Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily to pull the breath into the area between the navel and diaphragm. Expand your upper stomach (only) between the ribcage and navel to full capacity, making sure to keep your chest and lower stomach in or flat.
Exhale through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. Pull or suck in your upper stomach as you push your breath and stale energy out. You may feel your lower stomach pull in ever so slightly as well.
This is generally a difficult area for people to isolate in movement but becomes easier over time. Stay loose, relaxed and focused throughout the breaths and isolate movement only in the upper stomach.
Lower Stomach Breathing
The lower stomach breathing exercise helps the reproductive and urinary systems. Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily. As you inhale, pull the breath into the lower stomach — only from the navel down. Expand the pelvic area, and drop the breath to the pelvic floor. As you inhale, inflate your lower stomach (only) between the ribcage and navel to full capacity, making sure to keep your chest and upper stomach flat and deflated.
Next, push the breath and stale air out and pull or suck in your lower stomach as you exhale through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. You may feel your upper stomach pull in ever so slightly.
This can also be a difficult area for people to isolate in movement. Again, stay relaxed and focused throughout the breaths and try to isolate movement in the lower stomach. With continued practice you will progress.
If these three breathing exercises seem too difficult, then do not despair. What is important is the concept of breathing slowly and deeply into the lungs with steady, relaxed breath cycles. Since most of us breathe only with the top third of our lungs thanks to stress, anxiety, fear and sheer busyness… even something as simple as lying down, focusing intention on the navel and breathing deeply for a few moments before drifting off to sleep can garner positive health results over the long run.
— Dr. Mark Wiley