Thursday, April 05, 2007

Learning How to Breathe

Here's the Yogi breathing technique information. I've handed out dead tree copies of this to several people, and gotten good reports back. A few months ago, my beloved blogbuddy Livey was having worse breathing problems than usual, and I wanted to get this over to her. Well, as often happens, something came up, and, um, well - I didn't.

Since she kindly left me a comment requesting the info, I decided I better make up for my lapse. (eeek!)

In the post below I talked about relearning how to breathe during a period of COPD. These yogi breathing exercises played a major role in my improvement. They are simple and easy and feel very good from the first try. Even better - they can make a remarkable improvement in your ability to, simply...breathe.

The technique has been around for perhaps 5,000 years. The written version below is from 1903. Despite some archaic wording and concepts, I find it remarkably modern. Remember, the real world of microbes, of the structure of oxygen, of the actions and interactions of our organs were just barely beginning to be understood by Western science in 1903.

The excerpt is taken from a book called *Science of Breath,* by Yogi Ramacharaka. You can read the whole book here.
Chapter 8
The Yogi Complete Breath

...Perhaps the better way to teach you how to develop the Yogi Complete Breath, would be to give you simple directions regarding the breath itself, and then follow up the same with general remarks concerning it, and then later on giving exercises for developing the chest, muscles and lungs which have been allowed to remain in an undeveloped condition by imperfect methods of breathing. Right here we wish to say that this Complete Breath is not a forced or abnormal thing, but on the contrary it is a going back to first principles-a return to Nature. The healthy adult savage and the healthy infant of civilization both breathe in this manner, but civilized man has adopted unnatural methods of living, clothing, etc., and has lost his birthright. And we wish to remind the reader that the Complete Breath does not necessarily call for the complete filling of the lungs at every inhalation. One may inhale the average amount of air, using the Complete Breathing Method and distributing the air inhaled, be the quantity large or small, to all parts of the lungs. But one should inhale a series of full Complete Breaths several times a day, whenever opportunity offers, in order to keep the system in good order and condition.

The following simple exercise will give you a clear idea of what the Complete Breath is:

1. Stand or sit erect. Breathing through the nostrils, inhale steadily, first filling the lower part of the lungs, which is accomplished by bringing into play the diaphragm, which descending exerts a gentle pressure on the abdominal organs, pushing forward the front walls of the abdomen. Then fill the middle part of the lungs, pushing out the lower ribs, breastbone and chest. Then fill the higher portion of the lungs, protruding the upper chest, thus lifting the chest, including the upper six or seven pairs of ribs. In the final movement, the lower part of the abdomen will be slightly drawn in, which movement gives the lungs a support and also helps to fill the highest part of the lungs. At first reading it may appear that this breath consists of three distinct movements. This, however, is not the correct idea. The inhalation is continuous, the entire chest cavity from the lowered diaphragm to the highest point of the chest in the region of the collarbone, being expanded with a uniform movement. Avoid a jerky series of inhalations, and strive to attain a steady continuous action. Practice will soon overcome the tendency to divide the inhalation into three movements, and will result in a uniform continuous breath. You will be able to complete the inhalation in a couple of seconds after a little practice.

2. Retain the breath a few seconds.

3. Exhale quite slowly, holding the chest in a firm position, and drawing the abdomen in a little and lifting it upward slowly as the air leaves the lungs. When the air is entirely exhaled, relax the chest and abdomen. A little practice will render this part of the exercise easy, and the movement once acquired will be afterwards performed almost automatically. It will be seen that by this method of breathing all parts of the respiratory apparatus is brought into action, and all parts of the lungs, including the most remote air cells, are exercised. The chest cavity is expanded in all directions. You will also notice that the Complete Breath is really a combination of Low, Mid and High Breaths, succeeding each other rapidly in the order given, in such a manner as to form one uniform, continuous, complete breath.

You will find it quite a help to you if you will practice this breath before a large mirror, placing the hands lightly over the abdomen so that you may feel the movements. At the end of the inhalation, it is well to occasionally slightly elevate the shoulders, thus raising the collarbone and allowing the air to pass freely into the small upper lobe of the right lung, which place is sometimes the breeding place of tuberculosis.

At the beginning of practice, you may have more or less trouble in acquiring the Complete Breath, but a little practice will make perfect, and when you have once acquired it you will never willingly return to the old methods.


Livey said...

Thanks so much hun!

k said...

You're welcome!

Kenny said...

I will work on this while I am out of town next week. Thanks

k said...

kenny, you bet. I didn't know if you have any breathing issues or not. This technique is great for everyone, really; you don't need to have lung disease to benefit from better breathing.

Not to mention, it's a great stress reliever. And I know very few people these days who can truly say they never feel stressed.