In Part 1 of this article, we explored why optimal breathing is the
basis of health and well-being. Besides the obvious fact that breath
gives you oxygen and life energy, optimal breathing helps you to
de-stress, regulates your heart-rate, brainwaves, and nervous system,
facilitates digestion, enhances immune response, and is involved in
virtually every aspect of your health.
Consciously breathing well
also centers you in the present moment and connects you to your
essential being. You can use conscious attention to your breath as a
tool to integrate your mind, body, and emotions. You can use it as a
basis for self-cultivation and inner mastery. Optimal breathing also
just plain feels good. It’s a great tool to use at any moment of your
life to come back to your natural joy and vitality.
In this article, we’ll explore three keys to optimal breathing.
Breathing Key #1: Optimal breathing is through the nostrils.
Breathing through the nostrils is important because the air we breathe
is first filtered in our nasal passages. In his classic text on optimal
breathing, Science of Breath, Yogi Rama says:
are two narrow, tortuous channels, containing numerous bristly hairs
which serve the purpose of a filter or sieve to strain the air of its
impurities, etc., which are expelled when the breath is exhaled. Not
only do the nostrils serve this important purpose, but they also perform
an important function in warming the air inhaled. ” (P. 33, Science of Breath)
in through the nostrils purifies and warms the air, while breathing out
through the nostrils clears the filtered impurities out of your system.
Because of that, it’s best to practice nostril breathing with your
mouth closed almost all of the time. Exceptions to this are during heavy
exertion when you need more oxygen and during certain types of
cleansing and tension relieving breaths. Also, if you are congested,
you’ll need to breathe through your mouth until your congestion is
Yogi Rama goes on to describe the practice of taking a Complete Breath (Science of Breath, p. 47). In the following exercise he gives a good description of what it means to breathe fully.
Breathing Key #2: The Complete Breath:
Stand or sit in an upright position. Breathe in through the nostrils
only. As you inhale, imagine and feel that you first fill the lower part
of the lungs. This is accomplished by your diaphragm, which is a sheath
of muscle at the base of your ribs that descends and exerts gentle
pressure on the abdominal organs, pushing forward the front walls of the
abdomen. Then fill the middle part of your lungs, pushing out your
lower ribs, breastbone, and chest. Then fill the higher portion of your
lungs, lifting your chest, including the upper six or seven pairs of
Inhale continuously, so that you fill the entire chest
cavity from the lowered diaphragm to the highest point of your chest
with a steady movement.
2. Hold your breath briefly.
3. Exhale slowly, allowing your chest and abdomen to return to their resting positions.
If that is a complete natural breath, why doesn’t it just happen naturally? Why do we have to pay attention to it?
of all, when you are stressed or afraid, it’s common to hold tension in
your abdomen, around the base of your ribs, and in your shoulder
blades. You will also tend to raise your shoulders. This restricts the
downward movement of your diaphragm and creates a higher, shallower,
breath. High shallow breathing does not inflate your lungs as fully and
you do not receive as much oxygen. Because of that, you breathe more
rapidly to try and get more air.
In addition, under stress your
body activates your sympathetic nervous system which shunts blood to
your extremities for action. This demand for more peripheral circulation
further increases the demands on your heart and lungs which further
elevates your heart and respiration rates.
response to stress may be harmless for a short period of time, but when
it becomes chronic your breathing gets locked in a restricted pattern.
For many people, restricted breathing becomes normal. As described in
last month’s article, this creates a downward spiral of negative
So what can you do? You might say,
well, obviously, start breathing through your nostrils with Complete
Breaths. Yes, that would be ideal. However, it is not as simple as that.
Why? First off, when you try to do that, you will probably try too
hard. You will probably try to make it happen correctly. If you have
chronic muscle tension already, trying hard will just add to that
tension and exacerbate the problem.
This brings us to the third key to unlocking the power of breath:
Breathing Key #3: Allow and follow, don’t try and force it.
to think of it, that’s probably good advice for most things in this
life. With breathing that advice is absolutely essential.
practice all three of the points above, set aside a short period of time
each day (first thing in the morning and/or last thing at night are
ideal times) and simply pay attention to how you are breathing.
can sit or lie down (initially, lying down will be an easier way to
feel yourself breathing fully). Place one hand on your abdomen and one
on your chest to get a better feel for what is happening. Close your
mouth and your eyes and breathe through your nose only. Allow your
breathing to be as it is and take note of it. Resist the urge to breathe
correctly or optimally. Just observe the way that you are breathing.
your breathing process. Is it slow or fast? Is it shallow or deep? Is
it continuous or jerky? Does your mind jump in and try to fix it? See if
you can just let your breath be and learn from it.
continue to pay attention, does your breathing change? What is your
posture like? Are your shoulders drawn up or resting down? Is your face
relaxed? How about your jaw, your eyes, your hands, your abdomen, and
your feet? How does your breathing feel when you relax every part of
Take a few deliberate, slow, complete breaths as
described by Yogi Rama. Then, return to simply paying attention to your
breathing. Allow more complete breathing to happen, rather than forcing
it. Periodically, take a few more deliberate, slow, complete breaths to
center your attention and retrain your body.
Once you become
familiar with doing the three keys to optimal breathing naturally, you
can use conscious optimal breathing any time you feel stress or need a
break to come back to yourself.
To learn how to shift
from a state of tension or negative emotion to free up your breathing,
connect with your heart, and generate positive feeling, check out my
free 7-minute release technique: http://www.energymeditationsecrets.com
Kevin Schoeninger graduated from Villanova University in 1986
with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. He is certified as a Reiki Master
Teacher, Qigong Meditation Instructor, and Personal Fitness Trainer.
has worked with clients in the field of holistic fitness, meditation
instruction, and spiritual growth for the past 29 years.
Editor of SpiritualGrowthMonthly.com and the author of the “Learn Qigong
Meditation Home Study Program, ” “The Power of Practice Program, ” “Raise
Your Vibration: A Guide To Core Energy Meditation, ” “The Life You Are
Meant To Live Program, ” and “Holistic Fitness Training. “
Kevin can be reached through his website: http://www.thepowerofpractice.com