Deepening and slowing the breath

Slow and deep breaths, specially diaphragmatic breaths, are strongly recommended in Yoga and supported by medical research.

In this practice, the in-breath should be deep into the bottom of the lungs and then extend into the chest. The deep breathing into the lower part of the lungs is indicated by the expansion of the abdomen at belly button level when the in-breath is completed. When the out breath is completed, the abdomen should be drawn slightly inwards. This slight swelling and shrinking of the abdomen can be felt clearly, when lying on the back, by placing a palm on the abdomen. The palm will be moving up and down slightly. Longer and deeper breaths result in less number of breaths per minute. Let us say your current breath cycles (one inhalation and one exhalation together is one cycle) are 14 to 12 per minute.

Make sure to loosen the clothing around your waist, allowing the abdomen to expand freely. Try to extend the length of in and out breaths, to reduce the number of breaths per minute. To achieve this, breathe slowly and deeply till the abdomen expands slightly and then into the chest. Engage the mind in this process. When breathing in, simply feel the coolness. When breathing out, practice the  counting mode (1). After you settle down with this mode, gradually increase the number of times the current number is repeated. Continue repeating till the lungs are empty of any air. But do this comfortably, without getting stressed. And you may not do it all the time. Sandwich this option with the normal counting mode of counting lesser times, anything from one to three.

Repeat counting during the out-breath extends it.  Once the out-breath extends, the in-breath automatically extends. The result is less number of breaths per minute. Reduce the breath cycles per minute gradually, to 12, 10 and 8 without causing any discomfort or strain. This retraining of the breathing habit will take a long time, may be months. It is OK. You are trying to develop a permanent life long change. Once formed, this habit will continue on its own except for momentary disturbances.

Whenever you become aware that your pace of breathing has speeded up, use the repeat counting mode, to slow it down.

Benefits

Use this powerful method to relax the mind and body, at any place and any time and reduce stress. It is good for health of body and mind and reduces stress.  It is said in Yoga that lesser the number of breaths, the longer one’s life and healthier one’s body and mind.

(1) Counting mode

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Parent page: Complementary practices 

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