Most meditation practices, yoga, and the martial arts encourage breathing from the lower abdomen, or hara. Focusing attention on this area harmonizes the body, mind, emotions, and spirit, helping us to feel more grounded. Breathing is synonymous with being alive. If we stop breathing we stop living, and if we breathe well we can increase our vitality and stability.
Correct breathing leads to:
• good exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in all the cells
• better management of stress
• better lymph drainage
• improved circulation
• feeling connected and a sense of well-being
• feeling grounded or centered
• feeling relaxed
Close your eyes and observe how you breathe. Is your breath caught up in your chest or does it go deep down into your abdomen?
1. Lie on the ground or sit in a position where your spine is straight.
2. Tense all the muscles in your body completely as you inhale. Concentrate on the tension and hold tight for eight to ten seconds. Gradually let the muscles go as you exhale and feel the contrast. Try to let go and relax totally. Repeat two to three times.
3. Exhale completely.
4. To check whether you are breathing into your lower abdomen, place one hand on your chest and the other on the abdomen below the navel.
5. Inhale and see which hand moves the most. If your breathing is efficient, the lower hand should move the most.
To ensure that you have understood lower abdominal breathing:
6. Inhale very, very slowly, allowing the breath to enter effortlessly through your nose. At the same time, push out your abdomen as though you were blowing up a balloon in your belly. Move your chest as little as possible.
7. After your abdomen is stretched, expand your chest with air. This fills up the middle part of your lungs. Hold the breath for about five seconds and then slowly begin to exhale. As you do so, let your abdomen fall and relax. Repeat this for twenty breaths. Focus your attention on the movement of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale.
As you continue to do this regularly, you will have to put less effort into expanding your abdomen — your breath will do that for you. After a while, lower abdominal breathing will become second nature. If you practice it each day while lying down, it will become easier to do it even when going about routine tasks in the house, at work, or in the street.
Become aware of when your breath gets caught up in your chest. When this happens, consciously drop your shoulders and place a hand on your lower abdomen, and breathe into this area, allowing your abdomen to expand. Then exhale, with a feeling of letting go.
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