Diaphragmatic Breathing & Types Of Breathing In Yoga
Most people breathe incorrectly. Their breathing is shallow, using only a small part of their lung capacity. This results in a large part of lungs remaining unutilized and hence allowing germs to accumulate in those lower areas, resulting in ill health.
Types Of Breathing In Yoga
The three types of breathing techniques explained hereunder viz. diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as Abdominal breathing or Belly Breathing), Thoracic breathing (also referred to as Chest Breathing), and Clavicular breathing introduce the practitioner to the correct breathing habits with an increased awareness of the breathing process, which is otherwise normally ignored. We start with Abdominal breathing.
What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm is a domed sheet of muscle that separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragmatic breathing or the abdominal breathing is characterized by enhancing the movement of the diaphragm up and down while minimizing the movement of the rib cage. This kind of breathing is the most efficient way to breathe, but due to stress, an unbalanced lifestyle and many other factors which are the result of modern day lifestyle, it is forgotten.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Instructions
- Lie in Shavasana on a Yoga mat or blanket and relax the whole body.
- Place the right hand on the abdomen.
- Develop the feeling that now onwards the breath has to be drawn in and out directly through the navel.
- Continue breathing slowly and deeply, without moving the shoulders or expanding the chest.
- Inhale while expanding the abdomen as much as is comfortable. The diaphragm will compress the abdomen with the navel and right hand moving up, reaching their highest point.
- Exhale while contracting the abdomen again as much as is comfortable.
- At the end of exhalation, the abdomen will be contracted with the navel (and the palm) having moved towards the spine reaching its lowest point.
- This is abdominal breathing.
- Continue it for a few minutes and keep on observing the movement of the right hand.
- In the end relax and become aware of the spontaneous breathing pattern.
- Become aware of the body, the surroundings and then open the eyes gently.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Benefits
- In Belly Breathing or the Diaphragmatic Breathing, movement of diaphragm enables the utilization of lower lobes of the lungs.
- This breathing results in the equal expansion of the alveoli.
- The Diaphragmatic breathing improves lymphatic drainage from basal parts of the lungs.
- It massages the abdominal organs that lie immediately below the diaphragm including stomach, liver etc.
- Belly breathing exerts a positive effect on cardiac functioning.
Once the technique of abdominal breathing becomes a part of daily life and the correct breathing pattern is restored, there will be a great improvement in the state of physical and mental well being and the practitioner learns to breathe properly.
Thoracic Breathing (Chest Breathing) Yoga
Thoracic Breathing or Chest Breathing is inhalation done by expanding and contracting the ribcage. The middle lobes of the lungs are utilized in this type of breathing. The intercostal muscles are properly used to expand and contract the chest cavity.
Diaphragmatic Vs Chest Breathing
- The Thoracic breathing utilizes the middle lobes of the lungs whereas, in Diaphragmatic / Abdominal Breathing, movement of diaphragm enables the utilization of lower lobes of the lungs.
- Thoracic Breathing expends more energy than the abdominal breathing for the same quantity of air exchange.
- The man associates himself with Thoracic breathing when he is under physical exertion or doing exercise.
- This breathing is also experienced when a man is under stress.
- Abdominal breathing is the most efficient way to breathe, whereas thoracic breathing is not.
Thoracic (Chest) Breathing Technique
- Lie in Shavasana and relax the whole body.
- Become aware of the natural and spontaneous breathing process.
- Place the right hand on the abdomen and the left hand on the chest.
- Start inhaling by slowly expanding the ribcage.
- Develop the feeling that all the individual ribs are expanding outward and upward creating more space for the air to be drawn into the lungs. The left hand also moves up with a negligible movement of the right hand.
- Expand the lungs as much as possible utilizing its full capacity.
- Start exhaling by contracting the ribcage and forcing the air out of the lungs. The left hand will come down too with the right hand moving the least. This is Thoracic breathing.
- Continue it for a few minutes, taking a small pause after each inhalation and exhalation.
- Then relax and again become aware of the natural and spontaneous breathing process.
- Become aware of the physical body, the surroundings and then gently open the eyes.
Chest Breathing Benefits
- Thoracic breathing allows utilization of middle lobes of the lungs and helps lungs to be fully inflated.
- It helps in freeing the joints of the ribs and the upper back.
- Thoracic breathing, when combined with abdominal breathing, helps the body to obtain more oxygen.
Clavicular Breathing In Yoga
Clavicular breathing occurs when the thoracic breathing has been completed and in order to absorb a little more air into the lungs, the upper ribs and the collarbone are pulled upwards. It can be said that the clavicular breathing is the final stage of total ribcage expansion.
Clavicular Breathing Exercise
- Lie on a yoga mat or a blanket in Shavasana and relax the body.
- Start inhaling and expand the ribcage fully, as in Thoracic breathing.
- Inhale a little more and feel the expansion in the upper portion of the lungs near collar bones.
- The collar bones and shoulders will also move up slightly.
- While exhaling, first release the collarbone area, the lower neck, and the upper chest.
- Then relax the remaining rib-cage portion and come back to the starting position.
- Continue the clavicular breathing for some time.
- Then relax and come back to normal breathing.
- Again become aware of the natural and spontaneous breathing process.
- Become aware of the physical body and then the surroundings and then gently open the eyes.
In daily life, the clavicular breathing is only experienced when under extreme physical exertion or may be experiencing obstructive respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Although breathing is a spontaneous process, conscious control of it may be taken to learn and develop correct and deep breathing techniques. Rhythmic, deep and slow breathing exercises result in establishing the natural, relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.
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