DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING EXERCISES
Alternate Nostril Breathing:
This technique dates back to the origins of yoga and is also called Nadi
Shadhanam. At first, it may seem very difficult, if not impossible,
but with repeated practice it will enhance the relaxation response. To
begin, close your eyes and focus all your attention on your breathing.
Feel the air enter your mouth or nose and travel down into your lungs.
Feel your stomach rise as the air enters your lungs and then slowly descend
as you exhale. After becoming relaxed from the sensations of your breathing
take a slow deep breath. As you exhale, allow the air to leave exclusively
through your left nostril. When the lungs feel completely empty, begin
your next breath by inhaling the air exclusively through your right nostril.
Repeat this cycle for the next 15 to 20 breaths by continuing to exhale
the air through your left nostril and draw air in from your right nostril.
When you feel completely comfortable with this direction of air flow,
take a very slow, but comfortably deep breath through the right nostril
again, but as you exhale, change the direction of the air flow and exhale
through the right nostril, while inhaling through the left. Repeat this
cycle for the next 15 to 20 breaths by continuing to exhale the air through
your left nostril and inhaling from your right. Throughout this whole
process try to visualize the flow of air as you breath. You may have the
inclination to hold a finger to your nose to feel the effectiveness of
this visualization. Even if you don’t feel a difference, keep trying.
Although it may take a while, the nasal passages will begin to open up
with the conscious thought of these suggestions. Research indicates that
in the course of a normal day we alternate our nasal breathing as each
nostril takes turns dominating the breathing cycle. This is an involuntary
act that you can learn to control as a relaxation technique.
Energy breathing is a way to vitalize your body, not only by taking in
air through your nose or mouth, but in effect breathing through your whole
body as well. In essence, your body becomes like a big lung taking in
air and circulating it throughout your entire body. There are three phases
of this exercise and you can do this technique either sitting or laying
down. First get comfortable, allowing your shoulders to relax. If you
choose to sit, try to keep your legs straight. Now, as you breathe in,
imagine that there is a circular hole at the top (crown) of your head.
As the air enters your lungs, visualize energy in the form of a beam of
light, entering the top of your head. Bring the energy down from the crown
of your head to your abdomen as you inhale. As you exhale, allow the energy
to leave through the top of your head. Repeat this 5 to 10 times, trying
to coordinate your breathing with the visual flow of energy. As you continue
to bring the energy down to your stomach area, allow the light to reach
all the inner parts of your upper body. When you feel comfortable with
this first phase, you are ready to move on to the second phase. Now, imagine
that in the center of each foot, there is a circular hole that energy
can flow in and out of. Again, think of energy being like a beam of light.
Concentrating only on your lower extremities, allow the flow of energy
to move up from your feet into your abdomen as you inhale from your diaphragm.
Repeat this 5 to 10 times, coordinating your breathing with the flow of
energy. As you continue to bring the energy up into your stomach area,
allow the light to reach all the inner parts of your lower body. Once
you feel you have this coordination between your breathing and the visual
flow of energy with your lower extremities, begin to combine the movement
of energy from both the top of your head and your feet, bringing the energy
to the center of your body as you inhale air from your diaphragm. Then,
as you exhale, allow the flow of energy to move in the opposite direction
from which it came. Repeat this for 10 to 20 times. Each time you move
the energy through your body, feel each body region, each muscle and organ,
and each cell become energized. At first it may seem difficult to visually
coordinate the movement of energy coming from opposite ends of your body,
but with practice, it will come easily.