More on Breathing
3. Breathing Exercises
Ensuring whole-body breathing throughout the day is so critical that sometimes it requires more structured exercises to get going. The three outlined below have produced success in training people to correct breathing that has become so shallow, it denies them vital benefits.
This exercise is adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme.
Sit in a comfortable posture in a quiet place, spine erect, shoulders dropped, eyes closed if preferred.
Bring awareness to physical sensations, focussing attention on touch and pressure felt by the body making contact with surfaces. Take time to notice these sensations and stay with them for a few minutes.
Feel the belly rise and expand with the in- and out-breath. Devote attention to the second-to-second expansion and deflation of the abdomen, so closely that the mingling of being with the process can be acknowledged.
If and when the mind wanders, note what subject distracts it from concentration on the breath before taking it back to the area of the diaphragm and the breathing activity going on there. Keep doing this for 5-15 minutes per session.
Practising the above exercise for even one minute more often than once or twice daily improves physical condition. Harnessing inner resources as the world pushes ahead with its busy agendas pays off by developing readily-available inner resources to access anywhere, any time. Deliberately bringing attention to breathing serves as a sort of stop to instantly refuel body and mind. It facilitates getting in touch with whatever is being experienced at that moment and acknowledging how that feels. Even negative emotions and thoughts can be present and accepted without panic, just delivering their message, possibly revealing constructive action to be taken later.
Continuing to breathe into the experience, gently focusing more and more on the breath, is calming. Let thoughts pass and gather as much available attention as possible onto the flow of the breath in and out. In this way the breath can act as an anchor in the present moment, linked to a state of stillness and awareness in the midst of external flurry.
Finally, expand conciousness of the breathing process so that it seems as if the whole body is breathing – which in a way it certainly is as the exchange of fluids and gases across capillary walls is carried out more effectively all over with each hearty breath, at peace in the space the exercise is done.
Try to practice each and all stages of this slower mindful breathing process at least 3 times a day. Linking it to a regular activity might assist reminders to do it.
Try especially to practise it when going through an occasion that is triggering anxiety, such as a discussion involving conflict of some kind, or when rushing somewhere. Paradoxically the times it could most help pose the most difficulty, and blocking, shutting off, numbing and other deterrent feelings can create resistance. After succeeding and staying with the strain to set up new patterns, though, confidence sets in about being able to relax under turbulent conditions. Persistence pays off.
Another trick for improving diaphragmatic breathing to obtain maximum health gain is to use the 1:4:2 breathing method.
The 1:4:2 refers to the time ratio at which the breath should be inhaled, held and exhaled for best results. For every good deep inhalation, hold four times as long, to fully oxygenate the blood and activate the lymphatic system, and breathe out in double the time, to eliminate all the toxins flushed out of cells. Breathe in for at least 3 seconds, meaning a hold for 12 seconds and an exhalation for 6 seconds, and repeat the procedure at least 3 times every day. Every effort to incorporate this activity stands to the practitioner and augers well.
Breathe in life!
(Asthma suffers might like to investigate the Buteyko method of breathing, of which there are many positive reports.)