Saturday, October 9, 2010
Sadly, most people hardly use their diaphragm when breathing. They are shallow breathers. They utilize only a small part of their lung capacity. We all need to learn how to expand the diaphragm and so exercise---yes, exercise---the abdomen. Actually, there is 'low breathing,' where the lower diaphragm is expanded by using the abdominal muscles [more fully described below], 'middle breathing,' in which the ribs are fully expanded, and 'high breathing' in which the upper lobes of the lungs are filled with air such that you feel the act of breathing even under your collarbones. Actually, the 'best' form of breathing encompasses all three of these, but for the moment I wish to focus primarily on the first mentioned kind. In time you can work on developing and improving the other two.
One way of doing that is as follows ... If somebody is about to hit you in the abdomen, what do you ordinarily do?
You tense your abdominal muscles ... that's what.
Do so now ... slightly tense your abdominal muscles.
The diaphragm descends ('lowers') and the ribs move upwards and outwards ... making the chest cavity longer and larger. Indeed, as the lungs expand, a partial vacuum is created, drawing air into the chest cavity.
The diaphragm and the intercostal muscles ...the muscles between the ribs ... should be used to take the in-breath to the middle and lower parts of the lungs.
When we exhale, the diaphragm - in an upward movement - relaxes and returns to its "normal" dome-shaped position. What happens here is the upper abdominal muscles contract, and air (in the form of carbon dioxide) is expelled - in fact, forced out - from the lungs.
If we breathe correctly, we will use the bottom of our lungs as well as the top ... the same way we automatically breathe whilst asleep.
Be mindful, that is, ever alert and aware, of your breathing at all times. Notice, without judging, whether it is fast or slow, deep or shallow.
You will be amazed at the insight you can gain from just observing your breathing. Not only that, more fulsome breathing guarantees you a wholesome supply of oxygen to your system. That alone will improve your overall health, and will also quicken your perceptiveness and degree of awareness, focus and attention. All of those things are essential in mindfulness---and in everyday living.