The Art of Breathing

Breathing is something that comes naturally to all of us and a critical life sustaining process. But have you ever paid attention to how you breathe?

For most of our daily activities, we only engage a portion of our lung capacity. So, think, if you learn how to breathe right, you’ll be able to calm your nerves and rejuvenate yourself!

The air we breathe in supplies our muscles with oxygen and keeps us energised, while the air we breathe out releases all the carbon dioxide our body produces as waste. It makes sense then, that the deeper our breath, the more energetic and refreshed we will feel. While it’s not practical to be engaging in deep breathing the whole day, a few minutes of proper breathing each day will go a long way to making you feel better.

First of all, let’s look at how a full breath feels like by isolating its components. Sit on the outer edge of a chair and keep your back straight. Now inhale through your nose only by expanding your chest, while trying to keep your lower body still. You will feel your chest and shoulders rising and dropping as you breathe in and out. This is commonly known as high breathing.

Next, rest your hand on your abdomen and try breathing through your nose by expanding and sucking in your stomach. This time, avoid moving your chest. This is low breathing.

Finally, place your hands on either sides of your ribcage and try expanding your ribs out to the sides when breathing in. There will be minimal movement in your chest and abdominal area compared to the first two exercises, and this is middle breathing.

Now that you’ve felt how each part feels like on its own, try to take a deep breath while expanding your stomach, ribs and chest in that order. This takes in the largest volume of air and is what makes up a complete breathe. With a little practice, you should be able to do this standing up or walking around. Try it whenever you’re feeling a little sleepy or simply need to still your nerves.

To take it a step further, here’re two breathing exercises that you can practice too.

4-7-8 Breath

The 4-7-8 breath exercise is a great way to relax and calm down, and works great to relieve any internal tension you may have. Although you can do this exercise in any position, the first time you try it, you should be sitting down.

Inhale slowly through your nose while counting up to 4 seconds. Remember to take a complete breath that engages all three levels mentioned earlier.
Now hold your breath for 7 seconds.

Exhale gently through your mouth for 8 seconds and try to relax. Your mouth should be slightly open throughout the entire exercise, with the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth.

Repeat this a few times and you should feel a lot more relaxed and calm.
It may take awhile to get used to exhaling smoothly, but you should not feel like you’re choking or out of breath. Just try to control your breath and release the air slowly.

The 4-7-8 seconds timing is a rough guide. As long as you keep the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation, you can start with a shorter duration initially and gradually extend it to longer times.

Bellows Breath

The bellows breath exercise, also known as Bhastrika in yoga, is great for a quick boost in energy levels. Again, try the exercise while sitting down first.

With your mouth closed, inhale and exhale quickly through your nose. The focus should be on short, rapid expulsion of air, while the inhalation will occur naturally. There is no pause between breaths.

Start with 5-10 expulsions followed by a complete breath for a few cycles. You should feel stimulated and more awake after this.

This is a noisy exercise, and there should be the sound of air expelled when done correctly. You will also feel your neck, chest and abdominal muscles working. Once you get comfortable, you can gradually increase the number of expulsions in each cycle.  

Now that you know a few tips to breathe better, go out there and inhale a deep breath of life!

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