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Breathing comes natural … to a certain extent. Without intentional practice people typically do not get the full oxygen exchange possible. Every cell within us needs the best possible oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange as we inhale and exhale. Increasing this exchange through intentionally practiced breathing can increase our energy. Also, using breathing as a stress release focus can be helpful. Using breathing as a meditation focus also can be very helpful. Finally, by focusing on abdominal exhales tone those ‘tummy’ muscles – a nice extra benefit.
Here is a Visualization of the three intentional breathing progressions: BE SURE YOU EXHALE AS LONG AS YOU INHALE (the tendency is to have huge inhales without equal in degree exhales. This can create a slight carbon dioxide build up, which may make you slightly dizzy. If you exhale at least as long or slightly longer than your inhale, you can avoid this.)
The images we can use to optimize breathing begin with the “belly” or ‘diaphragm breathing.’ If you visualize pushing the belly outward when you breathe you actually are contracting the diaphragm muscle which is crucial for optimal breathing. When the diaphragm muscle contracts, more oxygen can be pulled into the lungs – nice! On the exhalation, that belly you pushed out for the inhale you now draw back toward the spine. This helps strengthen your exhale, as well as tones those tummy muscles – very nice! So on the inhale you push the belly out, and on the exhale you pull the belly back in.
The second breathing visualization that helps is to add a raising and opening of the chest as you inhale, and then hold the chest up as you exhale which lengthens the spine. Gravity pulls downward, which means that the spine can become somewhat compressed and the rib cage somewhat depressed. You can maximize your inhalations by simply raising and expanding the chest/rib cage. You also can counteract the negative effects of gravity on your spine and rib cage. A bonus!
If you go to the breath page, you will find a podcast for breathing progression one, which allows you to practice these first two breathing optimizations.
The third and most challenging intentional breathing optimization is circle breathing. This practice will slow your breathing and maximize your oxygen exchange. This third practice also is the very best focus for breathing meditation. As you inhale you push the belly out as you lift and expand the rib cage. Mentally, you image the breath being pulled down into the expanded belly. Then you image the oxygen circling back around the base of your spine. As the exhale begins, you image the breath coming up the lengthened spine, through the back of the throat, around the back of the head, down through the back of your eyes, and then out the nose. By fully and slowly circling this breathing pattern, your breathing is optimized AND you have an excellent meditation focus.
So, use the practice found in breathe, or you can do these without the music. Try to incorporate breathing optimization when sitting, standing in lines, meditating; and even when you first get into bed and awaken.
The function of every cell in your body may improve as well as your metabolic energy. Optimize your breathing to optimize your health.