You hear and read on many occasions, ‘Breathe deeply’ or ‘Meditate on your breathing.’ Breathing is the natural, inborn physiological process that indicates life in animals with lungs. When this process stops, you are dead. The Bible teaches that God ‘breathed life-giving breath into the man’s nostrils and the man began to live.’ Breath is life. Breathing is however taken for granted and most people never pay attention to it. The implication is that most people do not breathe right. Clinical research shows that optimal breathing contributes immensely to our overall well-being and life span.
Breathing is an important part of respiration in man. Breathing as we all know, is the intake of oxygen, into the lungs, and the giving out of carbon dioxide. Oxygen is needed in respiration, for metabolism in the body and for physical activities. It is needed for the the optimal functioning of all organs and cells in our bodies. Breathing and respiration connect us to plants and other forms of life, and to the universe itself. You may recall the Oxygen Cycle in your elementary biology (See fig.).
It is important to breathe right. Not breathing right means that you do not deliver to your body, the optimum amount of oxygen that it requires and you are not removing most of the carbon dioxide given out by the cells during metabolism. Many people breathe with their chest and neck muscles instead of with the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Breathing with the chest is known as chest breathing or shallow breathing.
The Diaphragmatic Breathing
Right breathing involves the muscles of the diaphragm. It means literally breathing into your guts. If you have ever watched a baby sleep, you notice the raising and lowering of the abdomen as he inhales and exhales? That is the natural way of breathing. Through our stressful life, and the fight or flight responses, many of us tend to tighten the muscles round the gut and this prevents proper breathing mechanism. Click on the video clip below for an illustrationof the mechanism of diaphragmatic breathing.
Discover the way you breathe. You can do this by lying down on your back. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Watch which of your hands moves up and down as you breath in and out. The hand on your abdomen should be the only one moving up as you inhale and down as you exhale. If the hand on your chest moves, you are having a Chest or Shallow breathing. Learn to correct this.
The video below may help. You can also find more videos on the YouTube.
Breathing deeply means that you let your abdomen extend gently to the fullest, as you inhale, and let it deflate slowly and completely as you exhale. Try counting 1–2–3 slowly in your mind as you breath in and 1–2 –3 slowly as you breath out. Do this five times and then increase to 1–2–3–4 … and so on.
Meditation and deep breathing usually go together. Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind to quieten down and reach a higher level of awareness and inner calm. It enables the practitioner to relax and enjoy a calm sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.
I know that the word meditation, in the Western world, conjures the image of the Buddha monk, or Hindu priest sitting in a lotus position and chanting some magical words. I used to think so too, but this is wrong. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, all over the world, by those that knew its benefits. The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ, after his baptism, went to the desert to meditate. The Bible also tells us that He often withdrew from the people and his disciples to meditate. Meditation therefore is an essential part of living a balanced conscious, non-agitated life.
You can meditate anywhere and at any time, allowing yourself to access a sense of tranquility and peace, no matter what’s going on around you. You can meditate in various positions, sitting on a chair with the feet to the ground, sitting in the lotus posture, sitting on the ground with your legs stretched out, kneeling, or even lying down. The important thing is that you have to be comfortable.
There are different types of meditation. It could be guided. It could be reflective or prayerful. It could be mindful, in which case you focus on an object or on your breath. Though I recommend meditation because I experience the benefits, I am not an expert on that. Here is a simple breathing meditation.
Breathing Meditation – You focus on your breathing. You take deep, long gentle breaths and count your breathing. The aim is to clear your mind and ventilate your organs and entire body, and become calm and relaxed. You may use a gentle music that resonates with your being as you breathe. You can also use some positive phrases or affirmations, (mantras), as you breathe in and out. Here are a few phrases I have used.
I say slowly in my mind, as I inhale, ‘I – f-e-e-l’, and exhale slowly, through my mouth and say, ‘g–o–o–d’.
I say in my mind, as I inhale, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’, then exhale and say in my mind, ‘I shall not want’. You can also use your own positive phrase that makes you feel good or you can just focus on your breathing.
Meditation could be guided, in which case you use a pre-made recording or with the help an instructor or guide.
Benefits of Breathing Right and Meditation
Clinical results affirm that Breathing Right and Meditation have the following benefits:
* Give more energy
* Strengthen the immune system
* Help reduce high blood pressure
* Reduce anxiety, stress and depression
* Help cool off anger and frustration.
* Improve the regulation of sugar levels in diabetes
* Help with weight loss and improved digestion
* Help improve concentration and memory
* Relieve headaches, migraines and back aches
* Improve sleep
* Give deeper inner peace.
The following simple video clips on meditation may help you. You can find more on the You tube.
Breathe right and deeply as often as possible and especially as you meditate. Enjoy the miracle of life!