The breathing process is divided into two parts:
The diaphragm is a strong muscle membrane which separates the lungs from the abdominal organs. The lower it moves during inhalation, the more air is sucked into the lungs. It is best experienced by sitting or lying flat on the back and placing one hand on the navel.
Inhale deeply and your hand will rise as the abdomen expands. Exhale deeply and notice how the hand moves down as the abdomen contracts. The diaphragm will move higher if the contraction of the abdomen is accentuated. Maximum expulsion of air from the lungs will occur thereby. During this practice do not move the chest or shoulders.
THORACIC OR CHEST BREATHING-
This is achieved by no or least movement of the abdomen.
Inhale while expanding the chest or ribcage so that the ribs move outward and upward. Exhale and the ribs will move inward and downward.
A combination of these two, to inhale maximum amount of air and expel maximum amount of stale air, is yogic breathing.
It is practiced as follows:
- Inhale by expanding first the abdomen and then the chest in one slow, smooth motion until the maximum amount of air is drawn into the lungs.
- Exhale by relaxing first the chest and then the abdomen.
- Finally, accentuate the contraction of the abdominal muscles, so that the maximum amount of air is expelled from the lungs.
- The whole movement from abdomen to chest and from chest to abdomen should be very smooth, almost like a wave.
This same procedure should be followed for each exhalation and inhalation. At first, because of lack of training, you will have to do it consciously for a few minutes every day, preferably before starting pranayama. Eventually, however, the process will become automatic and should be done throughout the day.
The benefits of correct breathing are clearly evident as:
- Reduced susceptibility to minor illnesses such as colds and coughs as well as more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma.
- Improved vitality and reduced fatigue.
- Better thinking power.
- Lesser susceptibility to anxiety or stress.