Breath is life. We can live without food or water, but deprive us of breath and we die in minutes. In view if this, it is astonishing how little attention we pay in normal life to the importance of breathing correctly. To the yogi, there are two main functions of proper breathing
- To bring more oxygen to the blood and thus to the brain.
- To control the prana or the vital energy, leading to the control of the mind.
Most people have forgotten how to breathe properly. They breathe shallowly, through the mouth and make little or no use of the amazing muscle called the diaphragm. They either lift the shoulders or contract the abdomen when they inhale. In this way only a small amount of oxygen is taken in and only the top of the lungs are used, resulting in lack of vitality and a low resistance to diseases.
There are three basic types of breathing:
- Clavicular or Collar Bone Breathing (Shallow) : One breathing in this way elevates the ribs abd raises the collar bone and shoulders, at the same time drawing in the abdomen and pushing its contents up against the diaphgram , which in turn is raised. In this type of breathing, minimum amount of oxygen enters the lungs. This is perhaps the worst forms of breathing.
- Intercostal or Rib Breathing ( Middle) : In this type of breathing, the diaphragm is pushed upwards and the abdomen is drawn in. The ribs are raised somewhat and the chest is partially expanded. This is somewhat better than the clavicular breathing but still far inferior to the full yogic breathing.
- Abdominal or Diaphragmic Breathing (Deep) : This form of breathing is far better than the previous two but still not complete. In this type of breathing, when the inhalation of the air takes place, the diaphragm is pushed downwards which in turn expands the abdomen. When the diaphragm is pushed downwards, it creates a vacuum in the lungs for the air to be sucked in and it results in maximum amount of air to be inhaled.
However, none of these methods of breathing are complete and the yogis knew a far superior method of breathing which is popularly known as the ‘Complete Yogic Breathing’. This method of breathing includes all the good points of the previous three methods.
The Complete Yogic breath brings into play the entire respiratory apparatus and entails using all the three sets of the respiratory muscles- those in the abdomen, the chest and the clavicle (collarbone). Every part of the lungs, the diaphragm and all respiratory muscles are used to their full capacity and it thus increases the oxygen intake to all the cells of the body. The entire respiratory system is energised by this method of breathing and the maximum amount of benefit is achieved with minimum amount of energy.
One of the most important features of this method is the fact that all the respiratory muscles are fully called into the play, whereas in other methods, only a few of these muscles are used and therefore, not enough oxygen reaches to the lower organs of the system.
The Complete Yogic Breathing is an excellent way of increasing not only the mental peace and efficiency, but also increases the vital force within the physical and subtle body. This fabulous and complete way of breathing shoud becomes a way of life for everyone. However for beginners to start practicing, they can follow the below method to feel revitalised:
Sit in a comfortable crossed legged position with relaxed shoulders and place one hand on the chest and the other on your abdomen. As you inhale, gradually expand your abdomen. Then riase and open the rib cage and finally life the collar bones. Remember that the upper hand lifts after the abdomen has expanded.
Begin the exhalation by relaxing the abdomen, then lower the rib cage, and finally slightly contract the abdomen to completely empty the lungs. Repeat the inhalation and exhalation for about 3-5 minutes.