Did you know that you and I have been breathing the WRONG way all these years?
When my yogi teacher Pio first told us so, I had reservations about his statement. After all, for as long as I could remember, this was how I breathed — inhale and suck in your belly, exhale and let belly relax. I call it tummy tuck breathing!
Apparently, this was not how we used to breathe as newborn babies. If you have a baby, watch how he/she sleeps. As the baby takes in air, the stomach EXPANDS and as the baby exhales, stomach CONTRACTS. This is called diaphragmatic breathing.
(photo taken from the University of Southern California School of Medicine website)
So if that is the correct way to breathe, why did our manner of breathing change over the years?
The breath controls all our responses. When we are calm, the breath is steady; when we are agitated or stressed, our breathing becomes rapid and short.
As children, we breathed deeply, using our diaphragm. Air filled up all spaces within our lungs. As we grew older however, and became afflicted with all sorts of stress, problems of the world and heavy responsibilities, our breathing became shallower. To some extent, the pressure of society makes women tuck their stomachs in while inhaling and men do so to bring out the abs. The lungs no longer filled with air. Eventually, we only breath up to the throat. And when we are truly stressed or angry, we hold our breath. These significantly deprive our body of much needed oxygen. The Taoists believe that memory loss in our senior years comes from this oxygen deprivation.
Asthma and Breath Retraining
Yoga teacher Barbara Benagh wrote about her bout with asthma and how she learned to retrain her breathing. All my kids passed stages of asthma and one daughter still has it every now and then so this article is going to prove useful.
How to Breathe Correctly
Firstly, we need to UNLEARN how we breathe and do the REVERSE. “Most of us do what I call upside-down breathing,” says Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., author of Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release and Personal Mastery (Bantam, 1995). On the inhale, we need to EXPAND our abdomen and suck in as much air as we can. Imagine trying to fill your lungs to the max. On the exhale, collapse and tuck in the abdomen, squeezing all the oxygen out to the last.
Here are other articles on how to breathe correctly.
Start breathing right and reap all the physical benefits from it.