Archive for the ‘Breathing’ Category

Belly Breathing

Here’s a quick way to better breathing. Repeat this short exercise about 3-5 times daily to teach your body to eventually shift into belly breathing full-time.

Sit in a relaxing position with your back straight and your legs apart.

Always breathe through the nose, which filters warm air.

Place your right hand on the chest and your left hand on your belly. This will help you to be aware of your abdominal muscles as you breathe.

Breathe out slowly through your nose and do it with some force so you feel your stomach pull slightly inwards towards your spine.

Breathe in and out for about 30 times. Take deep and slow breaths.

After you have taken 30 breaths and focused on counting them you should not only feel more relaxed and centered. Your body will also be able to continue breathing in this manner without you focusing on it.

That´s it. Continue with your normal day.


Abdominal (BELLY) breathing is one of the simplest, yet most powerful stress management techniques you can perform. Basically, belly breathing can change your life for the better!

Your breathing directly reflects the level of tension you carry in your body. Under stress, your breathing usually becomes shallow and rapid, occurring high in the chest. When relaxed, you breathe more fully, more deeply, and from your abdomen (belly). It’s difficult to be tense and to breathe from your abdomen at the same time.

A newborn child breathes with the abdomen. As the child gets older, breathing becomes partially intercostal ( i.e. chest breathing). During adult life most of us breathe only through the chest. Abdominal breathing is almost forgotten.

The key to natural, diaphragmatic and abdominal (belly) breathing is to begin to learn to sense unnecessary tension in our bodies and to learn how to release this tension. This requires great inner attention and awareness. It requires learning the art of self-sensing and self-observation…that is developing of a mind-body awareness.

To practice abdominal breathing, sit comfortably with your back straight. Always breathe through the nose, which filters warm air. Place your right hand on the chest and your left hand on your belly. This will help you to be aware of your abdominal muscles as you breathe. As you begin to inhale, your left hand on the belly should begin to rise, while your right hand should move very little. Now exhale as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. Once again your left hand should move in as you exhale, while your right hand should move very little. This is abdominal breathing. Breathing through your abdomen will gradually become automatic if you practice it on a regular basis.

Deep, abdominal breathing helps…
* Detoxify inner organs, promote blood flow and peristalsis, and bolster our immunity.
* Increase oxygen supply to the brain and musculature.
* Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system: Promotes a state of calmness.
* More efficient excretion of bodily toxins.
* Improved concentration.
* Greater feelings of connectedness between mind and body. Anxiety and worry tend to keep you “up in your head.” A few minutes of deep abdominal breathing will help bring you down into your whole body.


How to take good care of your lungs

Humans need air, and cannot go more than a few minutes without it. Therefore, we must take good care of our lungs, which is what we use to take in air.

Never smoke. Notice how it doesn’t say quit smoking, it says never smoke. That means don’t start smoking in the first place, and don’t even try it.

Increase your aerobic capacity. Do some vigorous exercise that really gets you gasping for breath 3-4 times a week.

Breathe in through your nose, especially around toxic fumes. The hair in your nose acts as a filter and only lets extremely fine particles through, and keeps the rest and combines it with mucus.

Watch what you inhale. There are many things that human lungs were not meant to inhale. Remember to breathe in through your nose when around them, but try to avoid them in the first place. Also, try to take shallow breaths so they don’t go deep into your lungs. And after you are done being exposed to them, maybe make yourself cough to force them out. Some bad fumes include:

– Car exhaust and gasoline

– Tobacco smoke and smoke from fire

– Cleaning supplies

– Paint

– Talcum or baby powder: these have microscopic crushed rocks that become trapped in your lungs, use a corn starch based baby powder instead.

– Fiberglass and broken glass: Fiberglass may make tiny cuts in your lungs, broken glass is less fine so it may not be bad at all.

– Ceramic dust or fibre: dust from dry but unfired clay work in the art room at school can be incredibly bad for the lungs. The same goes for ceramic fibre found in loft insulation.

How to Increase Your Lung Capacity

Breathe deeply. Be sure to practice deep breathing in order to maximize your lung capacity and take in more air with each breath.
Exhale completely. Don’t let any air linger in your lungs. This allows more oxygen-rich air to come in with your next breath. You can ensure the complete evacuation of your lungs by counting out loud. When you can no longer count out loud, you can expel no more air from you lungs.

Allow your diaphragm to descend by keeping your abdominal muscles relaxed. Your abdomen will expand as your diaphragm descends making more room around your lungs, allowing them to fill with air.

Widen your arms, holding them farther away from your body, to help open up your chest.
Inhale for two counts, and exhale for three counts. Maintain this ratio consistently.

Create resistance.
Breathe in normally, through your nose. Take deep breaths.

Breathe out through your mouth with your lips still close together. Open them just slightly so a little bit of air can get out, and with resistance. Try and do this as often as possible — it makes the sacs in your lungs more used to having to hold air longer, stretching them out. Another way of accomplishing this same effect would be to blow up balloons.

Participate in rigorous cardiovascular activities.
– Aerobics
– Cycling
– Running
– Swimming – The best sport to improve on your cardiovascular fitness. At their peak, swimmers’ lungs will use oxygen three times more efficiently than an average person.

Exercise in water.
Develop a normal stretching and weight lifting routine out of the water. Make sure that you compensate for the fact that weights will feel lighter when you have the water around you. Practice this routine for a few days until you are comfortable with everything.

Take it to the water. Submerge yourself up to your neck, and do the exercises while in the water. This may not seem like it is doing anything to help you at all, but don’t worry. Due to the blood shifting into your chest cavity and the compression on your body, you will have to take shorter, quicker breaths when exercising in the water. Research shows that your air capacity will be cut by up to 75% during this time, and your body will try to compensate for that. If your exercise in the water lasts long enough, and you do it regularly, your respiratory system will become more efficient, increasing your lung capacity.

Training at higher altitudes, if possible, can also help increase lung capacity. The air in high altitude areas has less oxygen in it, which will force your lungs to work harder and become more efficient. But be careful, though, as altitude sickness is a possibility until your body adjusts — this will require weeks to a couple of months.

You probably already know to stay away from any kind of smoking, but you should also stay away from smoke-filled environments, where you’re exposed to second-hand smoke.

Playing any wind instrument with correct diaphragm breathing techniques can make a dramatic change in lung capacity. Singing is also a great way to achieve the same results.

In a pool, position your chest as far underwater as possible and breathe through a tube. The further underwater you are, the more pressure is applied to your chest, making it hard to breathe. Make sure you can keep the tube above water or you will end up with lungs full of water. Note that at even a couple feet down it may be impossible to inhale. AND DON’T COME UP WITH LUNGS FULL OF AIR – exhale before you return to the surface or you risk a lung barotrauma (this can occur at 2 – 3 metres or more).

A 3/4″ (1.9 cm) NON-PVC (PVC is highly toxic) pipe coupler is the perfect tube for most people to hold between their teeth to practice breathing exercises and, if it isn’t right for a particular individual, they can use a 1/2″ (1.2 cm) or 1″ (2.5 cm) coupler. They are cheap and can be sterilized. They are a great aid to help singers open up!

Instead of using a piece of pipe you can use two knuckles. Also, thinking about breathing from the bottom up–like a glass of water being filled–helps.

Breathing exercises during everyday activities can be helpful. Breathe in for 2-20 seconds, breathe out for 10-20 seconds, and slowly increase the rate. Soon you will find yourself breathing out 45 seconds-2 minutes if your practice enough! You can easily do it while driving, sitting in the office, watching television, playing video games, doing paperwork, at the desk at school, or when you are simply bored!

Breathe through your nose as nose hairs filter air and do so before it enters the body. Breathing through the mouth means that this filtration has to occur in the lungs.

Whenever you become lightheaded, breathe normally.

Don’t exercise in open water unless you know how to swim.

Do not perform these exercises without consulting your doctor if you have any respiratory conditions.

When breathing underwater (for example, when SCUBA diving), stabilize your depth and never hold your breath or inhale deeply while ascending. Air expands when ascending and your lungs can rupture if you are holding your breath.

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Breathing Exercises

Breathing as a bridge

It is thought by many cultures that the process of breathing is the essence of being. A rhythmic process of expansion and contraction, breathing is one example of the consistent polarity we see in nature such as night and day, wake and sleep, seasonal growth and decay and ultimately life and death. In yoga, the breath is known as prana or a universal energy that can be used to find a balance between the body-mind, the conscoius-unconscoius, and the sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike other bodily functions, the breath is easily used to communicate between these systems, which gives us an excellent tool to help facilitate positive change. It is the only bodily function that we do both voluntarily and involuntarily. We can consciously use breathing to influence the involuntary (sympathetic nervous system) that regulates blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, digestion and many other bodily functions. Pranayama is a yoga practice that literally means the control of life or energy. It uses breathing techniques to change subtle energies within the body for health and well being. Breathing exercises can act as a bridge into those functions of the body of which we generally do not have conscious control.

An example of how life effects physiology

During times of emotional stress our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and effects a number of physical responses. Our heart rate rises, we perspire, our muscles tense and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. If this process happens over a long period of time, the sympathic nervous system becomes over stimulated leading to an imbalance that can effect our physical health resulting in inflammation, high blood pressure and muscle pain to name a few. Consciously slowing our heart rate, decreasing perspiration and relaxing muscles is more difficult than simply slowing and deepening breathing. The breath can be used to directly influence these stressful changes causing a direct stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in relaxation and a reversal of the changes seen with the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. We can see how our bodies know to do this naturally when we take a deep breath or sigh when a stress is relieved.

The breathing process can be trained

Breathing can be trained for both positive and negative influences on health. Chronic stress can lead to a restriction of the connective and muscular tissue in the chest resulting in a decrease range of motion of the chest wall. Due to rapid more shallow breathing, the chest does not expand as much as it would with slower deeper breaths and much of the air exchange occurs at the top of the lung tissue towards the head. This results in “chest” breathing. You can see if you are a chest breather by placing your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. As you breathe, see which hand rises more. If your right hand rises more, you are a chest breather. If your left hand rises more, you are an abdomen breather.

Chest breathing is inefficient because the greatest amount of blood flow occurs in the lower lobes of the lungs, areas that have limited air expansion in chest breathers. Rapid, shallow, chest breathing results in less oxygen transfer to the blood and subsequent poor delivery of nutrients to the tissues. The good news is that similar to learning to play an instrument or riding a bike, you can train the body to improve its breathing technique. With regular practice you will breathe from the abdomen most of the time, even while asleep.

Note: Using and learning proper breathing techniques is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long term physical and emotional health.

The benefits of abdominal breathing

Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and the abdomen. When it contracts it is forced downward causing the abdomen to expand. This causes a negative pressure within the chest forcing air into the lungs. The negative pressure also pulls blood into the chest improving the venous return to the heart. This leads to improved stamina in both disease and athletic activity. Like blood, the flow of lymph, which is rich in immune cells, is also improved. By expanding the lung’s air pockets and improving the flow of blood and lymph, abdominal breathing also helps prevent infection of the lung and other tissues. But most of all it is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation response that results in less tension and an overall sense of well being.

Abdominal Breathing Technique

Breathing exercises such as this one should be done twice a day or whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts or when you are experiencing pain.

Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.

After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)

Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.

Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute). At this rate our heart rate variability increases which has a positive effect on cardiac health.

Once you feel comfortable with the above technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (with inhalation) and stress or anger (with exhalation). The idea being to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with inhalation and release those you don’t want with exhalation.

In general, exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation. The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen are only needed to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, they are no longer needed.

Abdominal breathing is just one of many breathing exercises. But it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become improving the body’s internal rhythm.

Using breathing exercises to increase energy

If practiced over time, the abdominal breathing exercise can result in improved energy throughout the day, but sometimes we are in need of a quick “pick-up.” The Bellows breathing exercise (also called, the stimulating breath) can be used during times of fatigue that may result from driving over distances or when you need to be revitalized at work. It should not be used in place of abdominal breathing but in addition as a tool to increase energy when needed. This breathing exercise is opposite that of abdominal breathing. Short, fast rhythmic breaths are used to increase energy, which are similar to the “chest” breathing we do when under stress. The bellows breath recreates the adrenal stimulation that occurs with stress and results in the release of energizing chemicals such as epinephrine. Like most bodily functions this serves an active purpose, but overuse results in adverse effects as discussed above.

The Bellows Breathing Technique (The Stimulating Breath)

This yogic technique can be used to help stimulate energy when needed. It is a good thing to use before reaching for a cup of coffee.

Sit in a comfortable up-right position with your spine straight.

With your mouth gently closed, breath in and out of your nose as fast as possible. To give an idea of how this is done, think of someone using a bicycle pump (a bellows) to quickly pump up a tire. The upstroke is inspiration and the downstroke is exhalation and both are equal in length.

The rate of breathing is rapid with as many as 2-3 cycles of inspiration/expiration per second.

While doing the exercise, you should feel effort at the base of the neck, chest and abdomen. The muscles in these areas will increase in strength the more this technique is practiced. This is truly an exercise.

Do this for no longer than 15 seconds when first starting. With practice, slowly increase the length of the exercise by 5 seconds each time. Do it as long as you are comfortably able, not exceeding one full minute.

There is a risk for hyperventilation that can result in loss of consciousness if this exercise is done too much in the beginning. For this reason, it should be practiced in a safe place such as a bed or chair.

This exercise can be used each morning upon awakening or when needed for an energy boost.

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Breathing Exercise

A few weeks ago I went swimming with a couple friends and got a pretty big scare. My friend challenged me to do 15 laps with her. The pool wasn’t very big and I thought “piece of cake,” even though I haven’t been in a pool nor exercised in years. Strange that I still think I’m strong and can do anything, even being this heavy (260 lb..) Boy was I wrong.

So there we are on our fourth lap when all of a sudden its hard to breath. I stopped swimming and held on to the edge to try to rest. No matter how much I inhaled, I couldn’t catch my breath. The feeling was horrifying. It felt like my lungs were half way closed off, as if there wasn’t enough room for all of the air I was trying to inhale. The more I inhaled, the less I was able to breath.

I started panicking and just had to get out of the pool. I used the edge to pull myself around to the 3 feet area (we ere in the 5 ft side). As soon as I stood up, a lot of pressure came off of my upper body. I was able to breath a little better, but now ever since then I experience little panic attacks because I think I can’t breath.

That was truly an eye opener. Gosh, I’m that out of shape that I can’t even swim more than four laps. Anyway, I found this video on a breathing exercise today. Check it out.