Are You Breathing the Right Way?

   |  Updated: October 28, 2014 21:11 IST

Are You Breathing the Right Way?
Breathing is the most essential and frequent activity that we engage in from birth till death. It is the basis of our life and existence, yet we presume that it is entirely an involuntary function which does not need to be regulated. But, this is simply not the case.

Technically, our lungs have the capacity to take in about four litres of air in each breath. In ancient times, people led active lives as hunter-gatherers and then as crop growers. In contrast, our modern lifestyle is sedentary with less or no physical activity. You may have not known this but most people barely take half a litre of air per breath which is only one-eighth of the actual requirement. Our diaphragm barely moves if we are sedentary because of which the lower part of our lungs hardly gets any oxygen.

This shocking shortfall may not only cause frequent body ache but also lead to negative emotions like anger, anxiety and stress. To avoid this you need to make an deliberate effort to ensure that your breathe correctly. To begin with set aside at least one hour every day for breathing exercises. Regular brisk walking is also great as it regulates the flow of oxygen.

You can also train yourself to take in more oxygen even when at rest. This technique is called yogic or diaphragmatic breathing. Here's what you need to do - lie down or sit comfortably. When you start inhaling, fill your belly from the lowest part in a way that your stomach protrudes out and so does your chest. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then start exhaling while contracting your belly.
This should be done preferably on an empty stomach. Reserve five minutes everyday for this exercise before breakfast, lunch and dinner. After you have practiced this for few weeks, you will be able pump your belly without much effort. Interestingly, most of us who lead a sedentary lifestyle tend to do exactly the opposite. They contract the belly when they breathe in and expand it when they breathe out. If you are making the same mistake, make a persistent effort to correct it because this kind of breathing is worse than not moving the belly at all.

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Please note that you are not pumping air into the belly, it is going into the lungs. When you expand the belly, the diaphragm is forced to move down and the lungs can take in more oxygen. You will soon find that your stress levels have started going down. The oxygen that you breathe in nourishes your body and has a vital force called 'Prana'. The more oxygen you pump in, the more vibrant and energetic you will feel.

There is also an additional advantage. This pumping action strengthens your abdominal muscles and helps in reducing the waist size. The yogic way of breathing which involves 'Kumbhaka' (making a big belly after a deep inhalation and holding your breath for few seconds) and 'Rechaka' (expelling air and holding for few seconds while the belly has been pulled in) helps one increase the lung capacity to as much as six litres.

CommentsAs suggested by Amar Chandel, author of two self-help books, including "Perfect Health in Twenty Weeks". The views expressed here are personal.

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Tags:  YogaBreathing