In ancient Sanskrit the word for breath is the same as the word for life. The first physical act as we enter the world is to inhale; our last act in life is to exhale. Breathing is one of the few autonomic functions of the body we can control. The breath is an important link to your body.
Many of us do not fully use all of our lung capacity. The bottom half of the lungs may be "dead space" that does not get enough fresh air and oxygen with each breath. Learning to breathe fully and naturally offers many benefits:
- Calms and steadies the mind
- Improves focus and concentration
- Can lower blood pressure
- Reduces stress and tension
- Increases the metabolism rate, aiding digestion and weight loss
- Strengthens the immune system
Learning to Breathe More Deeply
- Choose a place where you will be comfortable and free of interruptions and distractions. You may wish to play some slow, quiet instrumental music to encourage relaxation.
- Lie down on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. You can also do this sitting or standing, but its easiest to practice lying down, especially at first, since it is easier to relax the abdominal muscles.
- Rub your hands together to warm them up and place them on your abdomen. Your abdominal muscles should be very soft and relaxed. If your belly feels tight, gently massage it until it begins to soften and relax.
- Breathe in through your nose, slowly counting 1-2-3-4 as you inhale. Watch your belly inflate like a balloon, causing your hands to rise. Hold the breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly, counting 1-2-3-4 and notice your hands lowering. By exhaling slowly and completely, you make it easier to inhale completely and bring more fresh air into your lungs.
- If the belly still seems tight, press down gently with your hands as you exhale, and gradually release the tension as you inhale. Try this several times and observe how the belly begins to open up more as you inhale.
Practicing this regularly will have a very beneficial effect on your breathing. As you practice, gradually lengthen the time for inhalation and exhalation. Start by counting to 4, then increase to 6, then 8. Work slowly and gently, allowing the abdomen to raise and lower comfortably and effortlessly.
As you practice, focus on allowing your breathing to become more natural and comfortable. By breathing more deeply you can enjoy a fuller sense of relaxation and well-being.
Thanks to Diane Quitmeyer for contributing information for this article.
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