Long Deep Breathing

The simplest of all the yogic breaths is just long deep breathing, but it is a habit that we, as a culture, do not have. Our normal tendency is to breathe irregularly and shallowly. This leads to a totally emotional approach to life, chronic tension, and weak nerves. The lungs are the largest internal organ of the human body. On average, lungs can enlarge to a volume of almost 6,000 cubic centimeters. Besides supplying oxygen to and removing carbon dioxide from the body, the respiratory system helps regulate body pH (acid/alkaline levels) and helps excrete water vapor, hydrogen and small amounts of methane. Normally we may use only 600 or 700 cubic centimeters of that capacity. If you do not expand the lungs to their full capacity, the small air sacks in the lungs, called alveoli, cannot clean their mucous lining properly. Therefore you do not get enough oxygen and toxic irritants that lead to infections and disease build up. 

To take a full yogic breath you inhale by first relaxing the abdomen. Next expand the chest and finally the collarbones. As you exhale let the collarbones and chest deflate first, then pull the belly in completely. The diaphragm drops down to expand the lungs and contracts up to expel the air. As you inhale feel the back area of the lower ribs relax and expand. On the exhale be sure to keep the spine erect and steady; do not bend or collapse the chest area. For some beginners, breathing is paradoxical; that is, instead of relaxing the navel on the inhalation, some breathe only into the upper chest as the navel pulls in towards the spine. Pay attention to the proper breath and paradoxical habits will give way to a natural energizing and cleansing breath. 

For beginners: A good way to approach learning the natural breath is to lie down on your back with a phone book spread open across the navel. In this relaxed position, inhale and watch as the phone book rises; exhale and watch the book relax back down. It may take some time but patience pays and as this natural deep breath grows more familiar, you can begin practicing in Easy Sitting Pose with your hand on your navel. Again, observe the navel expand on the inhalation and draw back toward the spine on the exhalation.

By taking a deep yogic breath you can expand the lungs by about eight times. If you establish a habit of breathing long, deep, and slowly you will develop endurance and patience. If you can establish a breath rate of eight times per minute or less the pituitary starts secreting fully. If the breath is less than four times per minute the pineal gland starts functioning and deep meditation is automatic. 

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