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Sep 14, 2007
Here are a few simple step by step exercises to help engage the full body breath.

Part 1 – Belly breathing
From a seated (or lying) position;
  1. Cross the arms with a hand on each shoulder observe whether the shoulders rise during inhalation it is important to keep the shoulders down and relaxed while breathing
  2. Keep the upper torso constricted with the arms across the chest. This will facilitate dropping the breath down into the belly. The abdominal cavity will expand with inhalation and collapse on exhalation indicating the muscle of breathing, the diaphragm, is activated
  3. Once this has been achieved keep the hand on the belly button (navel) with the middle finger of each hand touching and feel the fingers separating as you inhale and then return to touch each other on the exhalation…a ½ kg or 1 lb bag of rice place on the belly while the arms are across the chest is another variation on this exercise if you are lying on your back, in this way the chest is still constricted and there is a visual of the bag of rice rising and falling.
  4. Close your eyes and become aware of your heart beat, listening to the beat of your hear will give you the tempo for your breathing
  5. Start with an inhalation of 4 heart beats and an exhalation of 4 heart beats
  6. Gradually increase the duration of the breath with the heart beat to a maximum of 8 beats or eight seconds per inhalation and the same for exhalation. This process will initiate the relaxation response
Part 2 – Thoracic breathing, lateral expansion
Still in a seated (or lying) position;
  1. Place the hands on the lower rib cage so that the baby finger is at the base of the ribs and the middle fingers are touching at the area of where the ribs begin to meet about 4 – 5 inches or 10 – 12 cm above the navel
  2. As you inhale and the ribcage expands become aware of the fingers separating, the expansion is lateral as the tips of the fingers get further apart
  3. Close your eyes and become aware of your heart beat
  4. Start with an inhalation of 4 heart beats and an exhalation of 4 heart beats
  5. Gradually increase the duration of the breathe with the heart beat to a maximum of 8 beats or eight seconds per inhalation and the same for exhalation
Try to put these two breathing exercises together. First filling the belly then filling the lower ribcage area...again following the tempo of 4 – 8 heart beats...don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come immediately...just start again with the first exercise, moving at your own pace towards the second exercise. Then again try to combine both exercises till comfort and ease are attained.

Part 3 – Thoracic breathing, anterior and posterior expansion
Maintain either position;
  1. Contract the abdominals and try to hold the lower ribs in place...if you cough or laugh you will get the feeling of how the muscles should feel during this breathing exercise.
  2. Feel the air coming just into the upper part of the ribcage, your clavicle will rise to meet your chin and you will feel the expansion through the front of the ribcage or thoracic cavity - if you have problems feeling this in a seated position then you can lie supine on the floor which will further constrict the back and ease the perception of the anterior (front) chest expansion
  3. To feel how the breathing expands in the back, lie prone or on your stomach thereby constricting the front of the body, you will immediately feel the breath expanding through the back of the thoracic cavity or ribcage
  4. Repeat with the eyes closed and coordinating the inhalation and exhalation with the heart beat
 Now combine parts 2 and 3. Once a level of comfort and awareness has been achieved with this component then part 1 can be added and with the incorporation of all these simple exercises the full body or yogic is now activated and stress will be greatly reduced.

We are often told to count to ten in a tense situation before saying anything....I like to add inhalation to a count of 5 and exhalation to a count of 5 as well...

"Count to 10, then breathe to a count of 10."
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Posted: Sep 14, 2007 4:53am


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Tim W.
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Toronto, ON, Canada
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