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Watching the Breath
by Keith C. Heidorn
Before doing a simple breathing exercise, let's spend a few minutes watching our breath to see how we breathe.
First, stop reading and just breathe normally and observe what is happening. Is your belly rising and falling or is the rise and fall in your upper chest only? Do you feel anything restricting your breathing clothing, posture, emotions? Is your breathing regular and steady at a rate of 10 to 16 times per minute?
Now get in a comfortable position, either laying down or standing or sitting in a chair with back straight but relaxed. Now watch your breathing for a few moments. Has it changed?
Next let's take our breathing off auto-pilot and consciously control it. Take a slow deep breath expanding your lungs fully. You should be watching your navel area rise upward (or outward if you are sitting or standing) as far as it can possibly go. Now exhale slowly and imagine your navel area sinking toward your backbone. Empty out your lungs completely. Now relax and begin to draw in the next breath. Do this slowly several times. (Not too fast or you will hyperventilate.)
How does this feel compared to your previous observations? Very different?
Finally, we will do an exercise that we will want to repeat at least twice daily. If you are under stress during the day, you may want to do it as a relaxation technique. It is a good relaxation initiator. If you can do it outdoors in the fresh air (not the dirty air around roads or industry), even better.
First, get comfortable. Now, inhale through your nose to fill your lungs completely under a count of four. Watch that belly move out and the lungs expand from the bottom up. Now hold that breath for a count of seven. When you inhale and are holding your breath, place the tip of your tongue on the front of the roof of your mouth, just above your teeth. Now, exhale the air through your mouth to the count of eight, making a sound as you exhale.
Repeat this four times for now. If you are not used to taking in a large volume of air, you may feel a little light-headed. This will pass with continued performance of the exercise. Increase the number of repetitions to eight when you feel comfortable with four repetitions.
Good times to do this exercise is in the morning upon rising and at night before going to bed. In the morning, it is a good energizer to start the day. Before bed, it helps to relax you.For more on the art of breathing, see the companion article Breathing The Air.
Watching the Breath by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©2001, All Rights Reserved.
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