Proper diaphragm usage is the key
Resting on the base of your rib cage is the diaphragm, a huge oval shaped muscle resembling a dinner plate turned upside down. It’s connected from the back, alongside your lower ribs and up to the front.
As you inhale, the diaphragm muscle is pulled downwards as it contracts, pushing the ribs out slightly. It pulls your lungs downward to ensure the best inhalation of air. When you exhale the air it’s released. When you practice deep diaphragmatic breathing the space around your upper abdomen pushes in slightly, making sure you get a more complete exhalation.
The diaphragm area is extensively used in yoga to retain a sense of calm and fulfillment. When the muscle contracts your lungs become completely full of air, the sensation that comes forth from this is both relaxing and a basic component in the art of meditation.
In this post we’ll guide your through the process of sucking in your upper diaphragm in yoga. This is a step-by-step process so make sure you take note or simply print it to remind yourself of how it works, you don’t want to be in the middle of it and forget how to continue.
Make sure you’re comfortable. Comfort is key to making your yoga session as full as possible. You’ll want to sit in a cross-legged where your muscles don’t tense up too much; if not then you can stand up tall. You can sit Indian style or cross both shins.
We’ll be assuming a cross-legged position but the methods don’t differ that much as long as you’re performing the uddiyanabandha.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term it’s to — from a standing position — round your shoulders, bend over so as to curl your spine and placing your palms on the front of your thighs.
Once you’re positioned and feel relaxed you’re ready to start the exercise. Then apply the technique jalandharabandha. This means you drop your chin toward your chest, activating a certain energy lock in the throat.
First off, take a deep and full breath. Inhale through your nose and keep going until you’ve filled up your lungs. Allow the air to fully fill you up and enjoy the sensation of fullness. Then stay there for just a short moment.
It’s time to empty your lungs. By forcibly exhaling through your nose you expel all available air. Once you’re completely dry on air, your lungs are devoid of it, and your throat feels locked up you’re ready for the final stage.
As you’ve emptied your inner body of all available oxygen — not counting that which keeps you alive and well — you can expand your chest. Imagine that you’re exhaling while keeping your mouth shut and clog up your nostrils, this will automatically push your diaphragm up towards your chest cavity.
While staying relaxed, pull your navel toward your spine and drag it along towards your heart.
Now you need to hold your breath for more-or-less 10 seconds, anything from 5 to 15 works. When you do this you release both bandhas and follow it up by standing up straight. You’re now done.
Practicing your diaphragm breathing takes time, you need to keep this training at a regular level and attempt to feel more natural doing it every time. So set aside a couple of minutes here and there to inhale and exhale deeply, followed by doing a “mockery inhalation.” And as with all things, doing it more means getting better results.
A few to several times a day does the job just fine, a lot of people prefer doing it a few times in the morning and a few times during the evening. Just don’t overdo it, you want to do it to keep your diaphragm breathing at a natural level that allows you to truly relax. Overdoing it defeats the purpose.
Things to keep in mind
There are a few things you need to keep in mind as you perform the different motions, especially while breathing with the diaphragm. When inhaling and exhaling your shoulders, upper chest and abdomen need to remain motionless.
Breathing at a smooth and slow rate is very important, any irregularities or jerkiness is obsolete while performing this exercise. Of course, it’s only to the point of where you’re able to relax the most, the less you’re able to do this the more you’re — once again — defeating the purpose.
Deep breathing needs to be considered at a relative level. Like mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t exaggerate anything in your breathing, inhale deeply but be careful not to strain yourself.
While some automatically make the connection between smooth and even it’s worth noting that you need to keep your breathing at the same level continuously. Once you’re able to really keep your breath-rate line curved smoothly without any hiccups you’ll start feeling the effects immediately. No pause in-between the breaths should be notable.
Breathe through the nose
While for some this may be obvious, it’s duly noted as a scientific fact that the nose is our preferred instrument for breathing. Inhaling and exhaling are both preferably done through the small holes that make out your nostrils. It may be contrary to common belief as it’s commonly taught that you should breathe through your mouth for some reason, this is false and should be disregarded. Noses are meant for breathing.
It’s a muscle
The diaphragm is, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, a muscle. So rather than abusing it through rabid exercising or overt straining you needs to get it used to certain activities slowly. Pacing your diaphragm and adjusting it to the training you perform is another key element to proper diaphragm breathing.