Learning to breath properly is a step towards a more balanced and healthy life. Many of us go through our days breathing quickly and shallowly, and not using our breath as a means to ground, relax and cleanse. Our lungs are not muscles but more like sponges. They inflate and deflate by the actions of the muscles around them. The muscles in the neck and shoulder region can assist breathing and are usually the muscles used in chronic lung disease and improper breathing technique, called accessory breathing muscles. Using these muscles is called clavicle breathing and causes shallow breathing and will allow carbon dioxide to be re-circulated in the lungs and body instead of bringing in fresh oxygen. The intercostals muscles, which are the muscles between your ribs and enclose around your chest, are another group of muscles used for breathing. These muscles are especially used during physical exertion when the chest is expanding and taking in large amounts of oxygen. Using this group of muscles as the primary group of muscles during normal resting breath is too dramatic and can lead to anxiety, exhaustion and emotional distress. Although clavicle and chest breathing play a role in normal breathing, the best way to breathe is by using the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle at the abdominal cavity. As the diaphragm contracts it pull the bottom of the lungs downward allowing them to fill with air, while the same time pushing the abdominal contents downward. This should allow the belly to protrude out. We often hold a lot of tension in our abdominal wall and if the abdominal cavity is too tense due to emotional tension or habit then the body will usually resort to clavicle or chest breathing.
How to Breath
Remember that breathing is natural and instinctive, you already know how. These recommendations are to help you maximize the most benefit from your breathing; retraining.
Sit for a while and breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. Pay attention to how your shoulders, neck, chest and abdomen move. Pay attention to your inflow of breath and your outflow. Inhalation and exhalation.
Now lay on the floor on your stomach with your arms bent and your forehead resting on your hands. This posture should allow for diaphragmatic breathing. You should feel your belly pushing out against the floor. Play with depth of your breath until you get a sense of what this breathing feels like. After about 5 minutes of this position, roll over on your back and lay flat with arms and legs apart at a comfortable and natural distance. Continue belly breathing. These postures should allow you to focus on your breath as well as release tension. Following this practice once a day for ten minutes will strengthen your diaphragm and allow your body to easily start relying on belly breathing naturally instead of chest or clavicle breathing.
Through out the day as much as possible during your alone quiet time try to pay attention to your breath and practice your belly breathing. Imagine your diaphragm working as a slow rhythmical pump, bringing oxygen into the base or bottom of your lungs and then gentle relaxing as the carbon dioxide is gently pushed out. This type of breathing will keep you calm, focused and energized. It may help to place your hand on your belly and feel your abdomen push out against your hand as your inhale.
It is important to think positive and supportive thoughts to yourself. Some people like to think of the breath flow as the ebb and flow of the waves on a beach. Use whatever imagery works for you to ensure smooth yet relaxed breathing. Use your breath to cleanse, get rid of negative energy and tension and bring in positive energy, healing and freshness.