(NaturalNews) Observe how a baby breathes. With each breath, its abdomen rises and falls - this takes place because the baby is actually breathing with its diaphragm. Most adults, on the other hand, tend to inhale and exhale using only the upper chest. For most people, shallow breathing has become very much of a habit, the situation worsened by the frequent stress and anxiety experienced on a daily basis. Shallow breathing, however, tends to lead to tension and fatigue, while deep breathing is a critical part of overall good health.
By breathing deeply, using the diaphragm, one feels a heightened sense of energy and calmness. The mind and body relax and stress is reduced. More oxygen is brought into the bloodstream and to various cells in the body. Mental alertness is enhanced.
By using one's diaphragm to take deep breaths, one would experience a profound change in one's physiology.
In Ayurvedic medicine, breathing exercises, or pranayama, are used to help bring a sense of peace and tranquility as well as to relieve stress. Deep breathing also forms an important part of holistic detoxification regimens. Many holistic therapies, including oriental bodywork, yoga, qi gong and tai chi utilize some form of breath work.
Deep breathing undertaken using the diaphragm stimulates cleansing of the lymphatic system by creating a "vacuum effect" which helps to suck the lymph through the lymphatic channels. According to Jack Shields, MD, a lymphologist from California, that helped to enhance the rate of toxic elimination by as much as 15 times.
Here are some simple ways to experience the wondrous benefits of deep breathing.
• Find a quiet and comfortable spot. Lie/sit down, feet slightly apart. • Place one hand on abdomen, near navel, and place other hand on chest. • Inhale through nose and exhale through mouth. • Focus on each breath. Pay attention to which hand is rising and falling with every breath. • Gently exhale and empty lungs. • Inhale, counting slowly to four. During the process, raise abdomen by about an inch; ensure chest and shoulders don't move. • While inhaling, imagine warmth flowing to all parts of body. • Pause for a second and then exhale slowly, again counting to four. During the process, abdomen should fall. • While exhaling, imagine all stress and tension leaving body. • Repeat breaths until a sense of deep relaxation is attained.
This breathing exercise helps to suck air deep into the diaphragm in a bid to oxygenate the whole body. Each deep inhalation is divided into three parts - the first to lift the abdomen, second to fill the lungs with air, and third to extend into the upper chest. Hold breath for about three seconds, and then, in one long exhalation, release everything.
Repeat the cycle five times.
• Sit comfortably, spine straight, either on chair or on ground with legs crossed. Place hands on thighs or fold them. • Inhale deeply, counting slowly to 20. • Hold breath by contracting diaphragm. • Hold breath for 20 counts, then release hold on the diaphragm. • Exhale slowly and completely, again counting to 20. • Repeat the cycle several times.
This is an advanced breathing exercise which can calm the mind and boost vital life force energy. If 20 counts are too many, one can start with a lower count and progressively build up to 20.
• Inhale deeply and quickly using the diaphragm, and then almost immediately, exhale entirely strongly and quickly, pushing all the air out. • Repeat several times.
Sources for this article include:
Trivieri, Jr., Larry, and Anderson, John W. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND, and Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.