Have you ever noticed how do infants breathe? Did anyone teach them how to breathe? No, they just inherited it from Mother Nature. How peaceful and absorbed they seem to be in their own consciousness, breathing with the belly visibly going out and in. This just comes naturally, a state of pure ‘being’ without a mix of any awareness of the outside world.
The point is, at the onset of our lives, we all were born breathing like this. This is the normal, natural way. But gradually as the mind ventures out and gets conditioned more outwardly, we start to lose our natural rhythm, even deviating from the natural breathing pattern, without even realizing. As the mind and breath are definitively connected, any change in the state of one affects the state of the other. This plainly results into disorder in the entire system and manifests as stress, anxiety, all kinds of psychosomatic and somatic issues, which we have to deal with.
The thought behind this ‘Breath Series’ is to share with you simple yet effective Breathing techniques to boost lung capacity and breathe fuller. Before that, some essential (layman level) know how of our breathing (using basic Human Anatomy & Physiology) would be a good foundation to build upon, which can be covered in the next post.
The motivation comes from a very unsettling feeling during the outbreak of second wave of COVID19. So many precious lives, desperately clung to the last threads of frail breaths before giving up, just in wait of an external aid to breathe. It was like a wakeup call.
Does it somewhere imply that we are increasingly losing connect with our breath? How can we reclaim it? What if, in good and healthy times, we build up on the art of breathing, so that it effectively averts health issues? How can we enhance our inbuilt oxygenation mechanism, i.e. our breathing, which is literally our lifeline? How can we power our lungs to breath fuller? This series is an attempt in the same direction. If it can fairly benefit even one individual here, then it has met its purpose.
- Our breathing is involuntary as well as voluntary. [this means we can fairly control, regulate our breathe at our will; it is like owning a car, which can be driven both in auto or manual mode]
- This voluntary aspect forms the basis of breathing exercises and also Pranayama practices (one of the Yoga anga) where the breathing is controlled, regulated, channelized in a certain desirable way. [this means though it is pure science, it is also an art which can be mastered]
- Advanced practices of Pranayama can unlock the doors to higher levels of consciousness and deeper secrets of our being.
- The foundation of Pranayama practices is Correct and Effective Breathing,
That’s our focus at present – Correct and Effective Breathing. So, let’s get started.
We can only get moving from where we stand. So, it is crucial to first meet our breath, the way it is, here and now. That is our first practice.
PRACTICE I : NATURAL BREATHING
- Sit in a comfortable cross legged posture [Or you can sit on a chair]. Please ensure that the spine is erect.
- Gently close your eyes. Keep the face relaxed. Maintain a very gentle smile. 😊
- Roll your shoulders up, back and down; 3-5 times. [this instantly releases any tension in the upper body. Also rectifies curled or drooped shoulders].
- Ground yourself. Be aware of the parts of the body that is in contact with the ground. Ensure there is balance along the center, i.e. you are not tilting to any one direction. Keep the body relaxed yet stable [Grounding is an effective way to connect to the moment, find a sense of balance, centre the body and mind; more details can be covered later].
- Start to OBSERVE the breath – the speed, the rhythm, the depth. [make NO modifications in the breath. Just observe one inhalation at a time and one exhalation at a time.]
- Keep going while you gently place your right palm on your navel and the left on your chest [to feel the muscle movements more clearly]. Continue observing.
- Make a mental note of: Which is moving more prominently – the abdomen or the chest? [Abdomen movement makes the breathing fuller and deeper. If chest area is moving prominently, then the breathing NEEDS MODIFICATION].
- Make a mental note of: In inhalation, the abdomen goes out or moves in? What about exhalation? [Remember the newborn child; abdomen moves out like an inflated balloon on inhalation and goes in like a deflated balloon on exhalation. If it is the other way round, then the breathing NEEDS CORRECTION].
- Keep going. Keep observing, as long as you can or you feel like. Then gently release your hands and place them back on your thighs or knees. And gently open your eyes, when you feel like.
- Thank yourself for showing up. 😊 [I mean it, important step]
In case, your observation in Steps 7 & 8 above is that the breath NEEDS CORRECTION OR MODIFICATION, then it can be done through ABDOMINAL BREATHING, where you actively engage your abdominal muscles while breathing.
In case, that does not come so easy, the next post of this series will cover some pointers for the same and more.
Happy Breathing. Happy being Alive. 🌈🌞
P.S. Kindly feel free to ask questions, give suggestions, and offer corrections, if any. They surely will enrich my learning, on the way.🙏