While we are in the womb, we receive oxygen from the placenta & umbilical cord. But the moment we are born, we are on our own. Our body is in a panic state, we gasp for air, and we cry. The lungs fill up with oxygen for the first time & we embark on a new journey.
The significance of the very first breath is beyond comprehension. The ideal situation demands us to replicate the first breath for the rest of our lifetime but unfortunately, we create constrictions with emotions like anxiety & stress thereby distorting the perfect picture.
When we are born, we are not taught how to breathe, but as we grow, we unlearn this perfect ‘How’ to ‘how not’. Yes! The way we are breathing right now is not how we were created to do it. So what is the right way? Yoga has all the answers to these perplexing mysteries of life.
For centuries, the yogic gurus have been focusing on the correct form of breathing. However, there are many ways of breathing in yoga, the one we would be discussing here is a simple way, the one we should practice everyday.
Have you ever noticed a child or an animal breathing? Without any stress or anxiety, s/he raises the stomach on inhalation and flattens the belly with exhalation.
The simple yet effective way to breathe is called abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.
Adults often lose touch with their natural flow of breath, thereby engaging only in shallow or chest breathing. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms. Let us first understand the mechanism of abdominal breathing.
How does Abdominal Breathing work?
Our lungs and the intercostal muscles are attached at the end with the diaphragm. These thin, dome shaped muscles works in coordination with the lungs under the influence of breath.
As we breathe, the rib cage expands out and the diaphragm contracts & is pressed down. It massages the internal organs of the abdomen, lifting the abdominal wall out. This leads to a rise in the abdomen when we breathe.
When we breathe out, the lungs also flatten out, chest contracts and come back to the normal position. The diaphragm position is restored and the abdominal wall that was lifted earlier also comes back to its resting position. This leads to a fall in the abdomen when we breathe out.
This is considered to be the most effective and refined way of breathing. Often suggested during meditation, abdominal breathing is invaluable and reaps long-term benefits.
How do you practice abdominal breathing?
Now, that we know the mechanism of abdominal or belly breathing, this simple technique can be carried out anytime, anywhere. The first and foremost step in the whole process is to keep the attention fixed on the breath, at least initially.
Feel the movement of breathing, as you inhale and exhale. Next lie down on your back if possible. Gently close your eyes and focus on the breathing pattern. Let all your thoughts drift away. Once you are aware of the breath, gently place your hand on your stomach above the navel. Simply breathe in and out. Feel the movement of the abdomen. The expansions and the contractions hold the secret of healthy living.
Now, place the other hand on your chest. An important thing to observe is that the hand on the chest should not really move up with the movement created by breathing. It can lightly rise up with expansions of the chest but not towards the shoulders.
Also, while you breathe in, inhale through the nose and when you breathe out, exhale like you are blowing a candle through the mouth (you can also gently breathe in and out through the nose). Carry this simple procedure every day for some weeks until it’s ingrained in your mind enough to become your normal breathing style.
Abdominal breathing practice can be done anytime, preferably an hour before or after eating meals. This is the way one can step into the world of perfect breathing filled with peace, tranquility, and happiness.
What are the Benefits of abdominal breathing?
I would ask the question other way round. Which diseases are not covered under this style?Everything falls under the peripheries of this great style. Only if we follow, would we know the real art of living and breathing. When the breath is refined, no diseases can harm you. Here are some of the benefits:
- Reduces anxiety, stress, and mental disorders.
- Reduces the chances of cancer by 400%
- Lowers the risk of heart ailments
- Strengthens the digestive fire and stimulates internal organs to perform better
- Increases the flow of the blood and thins the blood due to added oxygen by proper breathing
- Reduces the signs of aging and wrinkles
- Reduces the risk of diabetes by strengthening the insulin levels
- Busts insomnia and induces refined sleep patterns
- Strengthens the immune system, thereby fighting everyday diseases
- Improves concentration, focus, allowing one to meditate properly
This is not all, there are many other benefits of conducting abdominal breathing. The only thing required is the first step. Once you start walking in the right direction, you would not want to look back.
Often in the race of time, in the battle of the best we forget to realize our true purpose of life. What we were born to do. Finding & fulfilling the purpose of life is the most significant revelation that can ever happen to a human being. With abdominal breathing, one can slip into relaxed living, thereby allowing the practitioner to drift into meditative pauses and to further find & fulfill their purpose of life.