Recent research by physiologists and psychologists is rapidly confirming what the yogis of India have taught for millenniums: proper breathing is one of the basic keys to physical and mental well- being.
Breathing: A Right way and a wrong way:
Most of us take breathing for granted. We know that it is the way in which we supply our body’s cells with oxygen– oxygen that is used in the process of metabolism that powers all our cells and organs, including the brain. And it is also the way in which we clense our bodies of a toxic by- product of that process: carbon dioxide. Al this seems so simple that we usually don’t give it a second thought.
However, yoga teaches, and modern science confirming, that there is a right way and a wrong way to breathe. Paramahansayoganandaji said:” Learn to breathe correctly… one who sits with the spine bent and who walks with a caved- in chest cannot breathe correctly. He squeezes the diaphragm and lungs, preventing the lungs from fully expanding and receiving the amount of oxygen necessary to purify thoroughly the devitalized blood that flows to them for this purpose…..when you inhale, if you feel the expansion in the lower lobes of the lungs ( not just in the upper chest, as most people do) , you will ingest the proper quantity of oxygen; all your dark blood will be transformed in to purified red blood as a fresh supply of vitality flows in to your system”
Deep Diaphragmatic breathing:
Scientists and yogis agree that the key to healthy breathing is allowing the diaphragm (the dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) to move downward during inhalation, gently pushing the abdomen outward qnd creating a partial vacuum that allows the lungs to draw oxygen to the lower lobes of the lungs.Researchers point out that this type of breathing is natural for babies; anyone who observes an infant breathing can notice that it is the abdominal region, not the upper chest, that rises and falls during inhalation and exhalation.
But as we grow older, lack of exercise, poor posture, and restrictive clothing cause most people to develop the unhealthful habit of breathing shallowly and with the chest, using only a portion of their lung capacity.Scientists are discovering that improper breathing over a long period of time prevents optimum health of body and mind. When we breathe with the chest, not allowing the abdomen to expand, the air is drawn primarily to the middle and upper area of the lungs. But gravity causes the blood in the lungs to collect more in the lower lobes, so the carbon dioxide cannot be removed efficiently.
According to nutritionist Dr. Brenda Owens, “This inefficiency causes the blood to return to the tissues still loaded with some carbon dioxide waste, which interferes with proper matabolism in the cells.” If shallow, incorrect breathing becomes a habit over the years, more and more toxins collect in the body, causing how vitality, proneness to respiratory and other diseases, restlessness, mental dullness, depression, and a host of other related in harmonies in the body and mind.
Thus healthful breathing depends on forming the habit of breathing efficiently with the diaphragm. As this is the natural way to breathe, it is usually simple for most people; but to form the habit may require conscious attention. As Paramahansa Yoganandaji pointed out, the first requirement for deep diaphragmatic breathing is correct posture. Breathing through the nostrils rather than through the mouth is also helpful. Another great help in training oneself to breathe correctly is regular practise of the basic deep breathing exercise taught in yoga.
Yogic deep breathing is also called complete or full breathing. It combines diaphragmatic and chest breathing to completely fill all three lobes of the lungs(lower, middle, and upper) through a smooth, steady intake of air. By exercising the lungs in yogic deep breathing, expanding them fully, the lungs are strengthened and cleared of impurities, and normal breathing automatically becomes deeper and more efficient. Practise of this exercise once or twice daily helps us to learn to breathe properly during normal activities, and brings many other physical and mental benefits.
Proper breathing with the diaphragm also helps the heart perform its ceaseless labours of circulating the blood. When the diaphragm flattens out, as in deep inhalation, the resultant chest expansion helps draw toxin-laden blood from the body back in to the heart and lungs for purification. When the diaphragm returns to its relaxed position in exhalation, it helps push arterial blood out from the heart to all the body parts. Thus, in deep breathing, less strain is placed on the heart than in shallow chest breathing.
Several recent studies have demonstrated the correlation between rate of breathing and emotional states. Two brain- wave studies done at the University of California show that during slow, diaphragmatic breathing, the brain generates more alpha waves (which indicate calmness and relaxation) than it does during faster, chest breathing.
Dr. Hymes has found that deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a very effective way to ideal with mental and emotional stress. “Try it next time you find yourself becoming upset or angry,” he suggests. “You’ll be surprised at the change it makes in your perspective, and how calm your thinking becomes.”
A calm mind, a body that is healthy and brimming with vitality, an increasing harmony on all levels of our being-proper breathing can help us achieve all these things. By learning to breathe deeply with the diaphragm during normal activities, and by regular practise of yogic complete breathing, each of us can move toward that well- being which is the natural state of body and mind.
A Key To Physical And Mental Well- Being( from a magazine devoted to healing of body, mind, and soul)