Saturday, June 13, 2009

So what exactly IS the right way to breathe?

It seems like every day that I learn of another new opinion on the "right" way to breathe, whether it's in a book, a magazine, an online article or a seminar that I've attended. It's ironic that the act of breathing, something that we perform every second of our lives, is constantly under revision. Some insist on breathing from bottom to top during inhalation, starting in the belly and finishing in the lungs for an "in" breath; and breathing from top to bottom during exhalation, starting in the lungs and finishing with the belly for an "out" breath. For others, the exact opposite is true, and they insist on breathing top-to-bottom during inhalation and bottom-to-top for exhalation. And some feel that you need to breathe in through the nose out through the mouth, and others say that breathing in and out through just the nose is fine.
Like nutrition, it appears to be an inexact science, and we may never arrive at the one right way that works for everybody all of the time. But much like nutrition, there are, I believe several "ground rules" that, when followed, make everything else more or less dispensable.

Here's what I mean: If you want to be a slender, healthy individual, then eat small, well-balanced meal portions, eat only at meal times, and avoid junk food. This advice sounds too simple, right? Yet in my hypnosis practice, I've never had a weight loss client NOT lose weight once they started incorporating these simple, easy-to-remember rules into their lifestyle. You don't need to worry about low-glycaemic index carbs, or low-density carbs (which most of us really can't be bothered to measure anyway), but you WILL lose weight, even without exercise!

Likewise, I would say that if you want to master proper breathing and derive maximum benefit from your breaths for the purpose of relaxation, awareness, lowering your blood pressure and boosting your immune system, there are just a few simple rules to adhere to, and then everything else is up to you. Breathe softly and gently, taking full breaths that extend all the way down into your diaphragm, but don't strain. It really doesn't matter if you want to be a top-to-bottom breather or a bottom-to-top breather, or if you want to breathe through your nose and mouth, or just your nose. Just make sure you extend your breathing down into your abdomen, because breathing is about using more than just your ribcage and lungs. Watch how a cat breathes. THAT is proper breathing.

Simple, right? But simple works. Boil everything in life down to its simplest components and marvel at how well it works. And when in doubt, trust your animal instincts. As humans, we often lose sight of the fact that we are animals, and we share instincts and common ancestry with cats, dogs, monkeys, reptiles, and fish. All of these critters know exactly the right way to eat, sleep, raise their children, exercise, and breathe without ever reading an article or attending a seminar! You and I all have these truths within us. We just need to trust ourselves and pay attention to what our minds and bodies are saying.

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