Back to Basics with Abdominal Breathing

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Conscious Control of the breath is the key to realizing all the benefits of any asana. The harmonious coordination of inhalation and exhalation creates a wave-like motion of effort and release in the nervous system, which leaves you feeling more relaxed and energetic both in body and mind after just a few minutes.

There are three main types of breathing: abdominal, chest and clavicular breathing. For now, we are concerned principally with abdominal breathing, which is essential to ventilate the major part of the lungs. On each inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and moves down against the abdominal organs, pushing the stomach out and drawing air down to the bottom of the lungs, and on each exhalation, the abdomen moves back in as the diaphragm relaxes, gently pushing against the base of the lungs and squeezing the air out.

Re-learning abdominal breathing

As abdominal breathing allows the greatest ventilation of the lungs, you might logically conclude that most people use this type of basic breathing all the time. But in fact most people practise only chest and clavicular breathing in daily life – even medical doctors and professional athletes. What is strange about this is the fact that abdominal breathing is, in fact, the most natural: children generally breath with their abdomen, and both children and adults breath abdominally during sleep. so what causes the body to lose this natural ability for abdominal breathing during waking adult life?

Every time you enter the Savasana (Corpse Pose) carry out abdominal breathing.

The main reason is stress. When you become stressed, the solar plexus (located in your abdomen), which is a major control centre for the nervous system, becomes tense, as do the abdominal muscles, which then prevents the natural movement of the diaphragm, Another reason may be fixed mental images. such as the concept of ‘manhood’ projecting a body position in which the chest is expanded and the abdomen tight.

Devoting a little time and attention to developing the habit of abdominal breathing will add a relaxed and dynamic quality both to your yoga practice and your daily life. During the first few weeks of yoga practise you may find it hard to become aware of your breathing and abdominal movement. It may therefore be helpful to practise Abdominal Breathing itself.

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