1. Belly Breathing
Before we were born, our mother provided through our umbilical cord the nutrients, food, and oxygen that we needed to live. In many traditions, the area just below the navel and midway into the body is considered to be a sacred center of energy. In any event, our belly is one of the major areas that get tight and tense when we are under a lot of stress. And this greatly affects our internal organs, our breath, our energy, and our overall health. In this breathing exercise, we are going to work with "belly breathing" in order to open our belly and allow our diaphragm to move deeper down into our abdomen on inhalation and farther up to squeeze our lungs and support our heart on exhalation. This will have a powerful influence on our respiration, on the way we breathe in the many conditions of our lives.
Practice 1. Lie down comfortably on your back on your bed or on a mat or carpeted floor. Position yourself with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent (pointing upward). Simply follow your breathing for a minute or two with your attention. See if you can sense which parts of your body your breath touches.
2. Continue to follow your breathing as you rub your hands together until they are very warm.
3. Put your hands (one on top of the other) on your belly, with the center of your lower hand touching your navel. Watch how your breathing responds.
4. You may notice that your belly wants to expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Let this happen, but don’t try to force it.
5. If your belly seems tight, rub your hands together again until they are warm and then massage your belly, especially right around the outside edge of your belly button. Notice how your belly begins to soften and relax.
6. Now rub your hands together again until they are warm and put them on your belly again. Watch how this influences your breath. Do not try to do anything. Simply watch and enjoy as your belly begins to come to life, expanding as you inhale and retracting as you exhale.
7. If your belly still seems overly tight and does not want to move as you breathe, press down with your hands on your belly as you exhale. Then as you inhale, gradually release the tension. Try this several times. Notice how your belly begins to open more on inhalation.
8. When you are ready to stop, be sure to sense your entire abdominal area, noting any special sensations of warmth, comfort, and energy. Spend a few minutes allowing these sensations to spread into all the cells of your belly all the way back to your spine. This simple practice will have a highly beneficial affect on your breathing, especially if you do it on a regular basis. Remember that you can try this practice at any time of the day or night. Though it’s easiest if you are lying down, you can also do it sitting, standing, walking, and so on. It is an excellent practice to try before you get out of bed in the morning. It is also an excellent practice to work with whenever you are anxious or tense, since it will help relax you and center your energy. Over time, it will help slow down your breathing and make it more natural.
FOR RELAXATION, BALANCE AND ENERGY
Your breathing pattern sets the pace for life. Feel your heart.
Is it fast? Is it slow? The conscious use of breath can help you
take charge of your mind-set and emotions -- all key to getting
into an optimal learning state.
How do you do it? Through patterned breathing where you inhale,
hold, exhale and hold. The control comes in when you vary the
time for each.
Lengthening and then holding your exhalation after all the air
is expelled relaxes you, while lengthening and holding in your
inhalation increases your energy. Be careful though, yoga experts
caution if you're feeling stressed you're better off using a
balanced breath pattern, as holding your inhalation can make you
The breath ratios at the top of the following chart are very
relaxing, while those at the bottom are energizing. If you pay
careful attention and adjust your breathing accordingly, you can
both relax and energize yourself at the same time.
BREATH PATTERNS: INHALATION - HOLD - EXHALATION - HOLD - EFFECT
In the first example, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 1, exhale for
8 counts, and hold for 4. The effect follows. Your counts may be
faster or slower depending upon your lung capacity.
INHALATION - HOLD - EXHALATION - HOLD - EFFECT
(# of beats)
4 beats...1 beat... 8 beats...4 beats -- Relaxing
4 beats...1 beat...12 beats...1 beat -- Relaxing
6 beats...1 beat...10 beats...1 beat -- Relaxing
6 beats...1 beat... 8 beats...4 beats -- Relaxing
8 beats...1 beat... 8 beats...1 beat -- Balanced
6 beats...2 beats...6 beats...2 beats -- Balanced
6 beats...4 beats...6 beats...1 beat -- Energizing
6 beats...6 beats...6 beats...1 beat -- Energizing
Source: Yoga Journal
* Use the Relaxing breathing patterns when you need to absorb
and assimilate new information.
* Use the Balanced breathing patterns when you need to focus
and increase mental clarity.
* Use the Energizing breathing patterns when you need to apply
what you've learned in fun play or with a dynamic project.