“Most people breathe the way they dance: They think they know what they’re doing, but they really don’t have a clue.
“Stop for a second and focus on your breathing. Now look down. See anything moving? Probably not. That’s because most people typically take very short, shallow breaths — the kind that simply come from your chest. For you to really improve your lung function, you need to practice taking deep, whole breaths. It should take about 5 seconds to inhale and 7 seconds to exhale. And your belly should get big, then small. Ahhh… that’s better.
“Remember what makes the lungs move? Your diaphragm. That’s the muscle that pulls your lungs down, so your lungs expand and you can really circulate oxygen throughout the whole lung. As your diaphragm pulls your chest cavity down and you inhale, your belly button should be moving away from your spine as you fill your lungs. Your chest also will widen — and maybe even rise ever so slightly — as you inhale. When your lungs feel fuller than a sumo wrestler’s lunchbox, exhale slowly. You can pull your belly button toward your spine to force all the air out of your lungs.
“Okay, so now you know how to breathe deeply, but what are the benefits? There are lots, actually. For one, it helps transport nitric oxide — a very potent lung and blood vessel dilator that resides in your nasal passage — to your lungs. So it makes your lungs and blood vessels function better. Taking deep breaths helps your lungs go from 98% saturation of oxygen to 100% saturation of oxygen. Another benefit is that it helps improve the drainage of your lymphatic system, which removes toxins from your body. And the deep breaths act as a mini meditation, and from a longevity standpoint, that is an important stress reliever. Take 10 deep breaths in the morning, 10 at night, and as many as you need when shooting free throws or chasing your toddler down the cereal aisle.”
Deep breathing has been used for centuries as a way of relaxing and releasing the tension. I find it is also the simplest and fastest way of becoming aware of my deeper Self but you may want to breathe just to relax. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position. You may want to cover with a blanket for warmth.
- Let your body relax into what you are lying or sitting comfortably on. Be aware of any tension anywhere in your body.
- Notice your breathing and place your hand on the area of your navel. Inhale and exhale. Is your abdomen moving, or are you breathing into your upper chest? People with tension breathe short, shallow breaths from the upper chest. Watch how babies and puppies breathe from the abdomen. That is the natural way to breathe.
- Place both hands gently on your abdomen. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose bringing your attention to your abdomen. Exhale, noticing how your abdomen rises and falls with each inhale and exhale. Your chest should move only the slightest amount, if at all.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling through your nose, keeping a simple, slow rhythm, as simply and effortlessly as a baby.
- Breathe for about five or ten minutes once or twice a day. This is so simple you can also breathe into your abdomen while standing, driving, walking, and other activities. After a couple of weeks of gently practicing this program you can increase to longer periods of time if you wish.
- At the conclusion of the exercise notice and compare how you feel now with how you felt at the beginning.
Allow this deep breathing to become your breath and you will begin to notice how much more relaxed you are. Even with so much tension in the world, you’ll be giving yourself a fine gift, costing you nothing but a little bit of time.
If you’re too busy to breathe, you’re too busy.