Take a deep breath! | Sunday Observer

Take a deep breath!

All of us breathe quite unconsciously, but do we breathe in the correct way? Modern scientists believe that if you want to be healthy, you should breathe correctly. They say that if you breathe well, you will stand well, talk well and be well. As far as breathing is concerned, everyone – meditators, cultists, faddists and physicians – agree on this fact.

The trouble with ordinary people like you and me is that we do not take breathing seriously. As a result we do not take in enough oxygen. Most of us use only the top of our lungs to breathe. We think that breath ends there, but it doesn’t. Our lungs extend down to the waistline. Unless you fill the lower lung sections with oxygen, you are asking for trouble.

If you wish to test whether you breathe correctly, remove your belt and raise it up a few inches between the waistline and bust line. Now exhale and tighten your belt until your lungs are empty. Take a breath and see how many notches you can expand. In fact, your chest expansion should be measured there and not under the armpits as is usually done.

Breathe well

Lucy Lindell in The Sensual Body says, “The way you breathe reflects the way you live.” When you breathe well your health and quality of life will be enhanced. On the other hand, if you breathe poorly, your vitality and capacity for feeling will be impoverished. Breathing properly is perhaps the only function that we can do consciously or unconsciously. Scientists believe that by learning to deepen your breathing you can alter the way you feel or think and discover a new sense of stability and calmness. This can be done in the comfort of your home or office without going to the gymnasium. Unfortunately, most of us ignore the value of deep breathing as we are unaware of its intrinsic benefits.

A person who has been training radio announcers for a long time says when you breathe freely the diaphragm, belly and chest undulate with the rhythm of each breath. This results in energising the whole body. You should watch a young child or an animal, preferably a dog, and notice how they breathe. After running or doing some strenuous exercises we start breathing heavily, filling our lungs and exhaling thereafter. Adults leading sedentary lives have lost the art of breathing deeply without making use of the diaphragm.

When you do not breathe deeply, you will feel muscular tension which can lead to other complications. As I have mentioned in a previous column, we should stand up straight with chest out and belly in and this military posture will tighten the breathing muscles. Our bad postural habits unconsciously restrict our breathing leading to painful emotions. Without deep breathing we cannot enjoy the richness and intensity of our feelings.

Deepest feelings

Most grown-up men and women try to control their deepest feelings without knowing that it would tighten their breathing muscles. Not only the heart but also the chest and belly act as the seat of our feelings. When we do not express our sadness, anger or fear by crying or some other way, we tend to block the free flow of energy in the body. Most of the people who suppress their feelings diminish their capacity for pleasure.

When we go for voice training we are taught that by restricting our breathing our voices begin to suffer. When the throat, diaphragm and belly get tight or tense, the strength and resonance of the voice gets affected. If you want to be a singer, speaker or announcer, you should learn how to deepen your breathing and release the patterns of holding in our bodies.

An instructor will recommend certain exercises for deep breathing and improving your voice. In the absence of such an instructor, you can monitor your own breathing while you go about your daily activities. Your thoughts, feelings, and natural rhythm will improve with correct deep breathing. However, there is no need to force yourself to breathe deeply. The purpose is not to impose a new breathing system but to breathe gently and deeply to re-discover your natural rhythm.

Instructor

You might think that you do not need an instructor to tell you how to breathe simply because you breathe until you pass away. However, our breathing changes according to the activities we are involved in. If you are taking part in a marathon, you will breathe heavily and faster. But if you are constantly watching television, your breathing will be shallow. When we sleep or relax too our breathing becomes slow.

If you want to  breathe freely, your belly should be relaxed. Those who wish to live long do not fill their stomachs 100 per cent full. You should fill only about 80 per cent of your stomach with food. Your dinner or last meal for the day should be light because your body becomes inactive while you sleep.

Your diaphragm is the dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates the lungs from the abdominal organs. It has to remain flexible at all times. When your diaphragm is tight your breathing gets restricted and your feelings and energy will be blocked. If you are doing breathing exercises, exhale fully ridding your lungs of air.

Spiritual tradition

In the eastern spiritual tradition, breath contains oxygen and also the life force known as Prana,Chi or Ki. In yoga, Pranayama is the regulation of Prana through breathing exercises. Pranayama is believed to energize the whole body and create emotional stability. Yogis and mystics such as Sadguru meditate regularly and they are able to think clearly.

Deep breathing and its resultant benefits are within your reach. A good way to re-educate your diaphragm if you are not breathing deeply is to lie flat on your back and forget the cares of the world and let the diaphragm  work naturally. By doing this exercise until it becomes a habit, you will breathe properly even when you are upright.

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