Simple deep breathing
The most basic thing to remember is that your breath begins with a full exhalation (I know this seems counterintuitive, but it’s true). You can’t inhale fully until you empty your lungs completely. It is also important to breathe in through your nose.
Now try this: Sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your knees. Relax your shoulders. On your next exhalation, breathe out slowly through your nose, counting to five. Tense your abdominal muscles, drawing in your diaphragm to help your lungs deflate. At the bottom of your breath, pause for two counts, then inhale slowly to the count of five. Expand your belly as you breathe in. Now close your eyes and repeat 5–10 times. Think of your diaphragm as the pump and your breath as the power.
If you find that your mind wanders during this exercise, don’t worry. Just refocus on your counting. Some of my patients find it helpful to think of a happy color (like yellow) when they breathe in and a droopy color as they breathe out (like grey). As your awareness of your breath increases, you’ll find that it becomes easier to breathe deeply without so much attention.
The Bellows, or Fire Breath
Many forms of yoga begin with breathing techniques, or pranayama. Prana means ‘breath’ or ‘life force’ in Sanskrit. The bellows breath is a yogic exercise that stimulates energy when you need it, toning the abdomen and massaging the internal organs and lymph system. Though not deep breathing, the bellows does activate the lungs, neck, chest and abdomen so that deeper breathing comes more naturally.
Again, sit in a comfortable position. With your mouth closed, breath in and out through your nose as fast as possible. Think of pumping up a balloon or water toy. Try to breath in and out as equally as possible. Continue for 10–15 seconds, no more at first. As you become more accustomed to this technique you can increase the exercise to one full minute.
This yoga technique is very useful during times of stress, or at any time you need to relax. It is extremely relaxing and can be done before bed to assist with sleep issues.
Again, sit comfortably and close your eyes. With your mouth closed, exhale deeply through your nose. Imagine that you are pouring the breath out of a jug, starting at the top of your chest and moving down through your mid-torso and into your diaphragm. Pause for two counts at the bottom of the breath, then inhale through your nose. Refill the “jug” slowly, counting to five (or seven if you can make it). Start at the bottom, expanding your diaphragm and belly, then your mid-torso, and lastly the top of your chest and lungs. Pause for two counts and exhale as before. Repeat 5–10 times.
Until next time….