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[Yoga Home][Postures][Breathing][HolisticOnline Home][Meditation][Prayer]

Your First Deep Breath

Deep breathing can be accomplished sitting down in a meditative posture such as lotus posture, sitting down on a chair with your spine straight or standing up with your spine held straight. If you haven't done so, read the section on learning to breath correctly.

First check your posture. The spine should be straight, the head erect, hands on knees, mouth closed. Now concentrate on the pharyngeal space at the back wall of your mouth and, slightly contracting its muscles, begin to draw in the air through that space as if you were using a suction pump. Do it slowly and steadily, letting the pumping sound be clearly heard. Don't use the nostrils; remember that they remain inactive during the entire respiration process. When inhaling let your ribs expand sideways like an accordion-beginning with the lower ones, of course. Remember the chest and shoulders should remain motionless. The entire inhalation should be done gently and effortlessly. When it has been completed pause for a second or two, holding the breath. Then slowly begin breathing out. The exhalation is usually not as passive as the inhalation. You use a slight, a very slight, pressure to push the air out-although it feels as though you pressed it against the throat like a hydraulic press. The upper ribs are now contracted first, the nostrils remain inactive and the chest and shoulders motionless. At the end of the exhalation, pull in the stomach a little so as to push out all the air.

Congratulations! You have just taken your first deep breath.

Do not try to take too full a breath at once. Start by breathing to the count of four. Then hold the breath, counting to two, and start slowly exhaling, again to the count of four. Breathing in and out to an equal number of beats is called rhythmic breathing. You allow four beats to fill your lungs, two to retain the breath, and four to breathe out. The respiration should be timed in such a way that at the end of the four beats you have completed the exhalation. Don't just stop at the end of the count when there is still air to be expelled. You should adjust your breathing to the timing. Repeat, but do not take more than 5 or 6 deep breaths at one time during the first week. You shouldn't do more even if you are enjoying it.

Be careful not to overdo the breathing, especially inhalation, as this may lead to unpleasant results such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, even fainting spells due to hyperventilation caused by a sudden, excessive intake of oxygen. By practicing complete breathing, you will be able to enlarge the lung capacity so that, after practice, you can inhale more air than you did before. But this increased capacity should come gradually rather than by force. By repeating such a complete breathing too often or too rapidly in succession, you may absorb too much oxygen and become dizzy. You may continue to employ all of the muscles and all portions of the lungs in breathing without expanding the lungs to their maximum extent each time you inhale.

Proper yogic breathing employs all of the muscles and all or most of the lungs. But the extent of expansion and the rate of breathing may be progressively reduced to suit the body's needs for oxygen consumption under the conditions of exercise or rest which prevail. As your cycle of breathing involves an increasingly larger lung area, your respiration may be decreased correspondingly while the amount of oxygen available for use remains the same-or even increases. Slower, deeper breathing not only stimulates the lungs into healthier action, and brings more of the body muscles into play, but it has the effect of calming the nerves. Although other factors must be taken into consideration, the slower your respiration rate the calmer you feel. You can deliberately reduce this rate for beneficial effect. However, you can maintain this only if you breathe more deeply.

A complete breath involves the following steps:

  1. Inhale slowly until your lungs are filled to capacity. Some recommend that you begin with abdominal breathing, gradually move into middle breathing, and finish filling the lungs with high breathing.
  2. A pause, short or long, should occur at the end of inhalation. This, too, should not be forced at first, though deliberate experiments with extending this pause play an important part in successful yogic practice.
  3. Exhale, also slowly, smoothly and completely. Again, some recommend beginning exhalation with high breathing, proceeding gradually to middle breathing, and ending with abdominal breathing and use of abdominal muscles to expel all air from the lungs.
  4. Another pause, short or long, should occur at the end of exhalation. This too should not be forced at first, though this pause may prove to be even more significant than the first as a stage in which to seek and find a kind of spiritual quiescence that can be most powerful in its relaxing effects.

Go To: The Four Stages of Breathing - Description

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