Think And Do

Post-Birth or Buddhist Breathing

When we inhale, we draw breath in and send it to our lungs.
We do this each minute of each day without thinking about it.
As adults, we generally inhale, and, if we observe our body’s action, the upper torso tightens and the shoulder rise a bit.
When we consciously inhale, we create tension in the body. As adults, we have conditioned ourselves to tighten our abdominal muscles slightly.
We are now tense from the throat to the abdomen.

When we exhale, need to release the tension that we just created, so we drop our shoulders, release our abs, and soften the muscles from the throat to the abdomen.
We have relaxed our bodies.

Shifting from adults to infants, let’s watch a baby breathe for a few moments.
Lying there peacefully on their backs, they breathe very differently from the way that we do.
As they inhale, their bellies rise, the blanket rises. As they exhale, their bellies fall. Quite the opposite from the adults that they will become.

We begin to change our breathing pattern somewhere between 5 and 7 years of age.
It is around this time that we are confronted with our first real “pressures”: follow instructions, stay with the group, sit up straight, stand up straight, etc.
We stand, inhale, and “suck in” our stomachs. We hold that breath unconsciously, and only when we MUST exhale, do we let the breath out and everything sags and relaxes.
Slowly, over time, our breathing pattern changes. This new method becomes the norm.

Our baby from above is breathing in the natural pattern of tension and relaxation in conjunction with inhales and exhales.
This breathing has a name: “post-birth”.
It is also called “abdominal” breathing because we take breath deeply into the bottom of our lungs, and this can only happen when we allow the abdominal muscles to relax when we inhale.

This simple but profound practice is the basis for Yoga practice, meditation, and living our everyday lives.
We want to oxygenate as fully as possible, feeding and nurturing each of the cells in our bodies. Practice this breathing regularly. It is well worth it!

Tips For Practice

  • Wandering Mind - Don’t admonish yourself. Just return your attention to your breathing and continue.
  • Dizziness - Common because you are oxygenating your system much more than with your conventional breathing style. Take the breaths slowly and continue.
  • Dry Throat - Drink water. Keep breathing!
  • Muscle Tension - Especially in your face
    Are you clenching your teeth? Are you frowning because you are trying to figure out what you are doing? Are you making fists?
  • Inhalations bring energy in, so you may feel spots in your body that tense up when you inhale.
    Consciously relax those spots when you exhale.

Breathing Through the Nose or Mouth

Your nose is intended for breathing - your mouth is intended for eating.
Your nose acts as an important filter for the breath that is entering the body.
  • All breathing practice should be done with your mouth closed
  • Keep your teeth un-clenched, your lips un-pursed, and your jaw relaxed
  • Continue practicing - inhale always through your nose - If you get tired, open your mouth a bit when exhaling

Five Simple Steps

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or lie on your back on the floor (not in bed)
  2. Place one hand on your abdomen
  3. As you inhale, gently push outward with your abdomen so that your hand moves away from you
  4. As you exhale, contract your abdomen inward, pushing the exhale out from deep within your body
  5. As you get used to the body's motion working with the breath, release your hand from your abdomen and continue
When it Gets Easier
  1. Sit with your back against a chair. Not an easy chair, a kitchen or office chair.
  2. Notice your arms and especially your elbows.
    Keep your hands in your lap with elbows beneath shoulders. Your upper arm is hanging straight down.
  3. As you inhale and your abdomen relaxes outward, press the small of your back forward toward your navel & stretch the crown of your head upward.
  4. As you exhale, drawn your abdomen inward, pressing your navel toward your spine as you did lying down.
    Feel how different your back feels – you are now on the way to sitting correctly!
  5. Notice your shoulders. This is a very popular spot for tension.
    As you exhale, let the shoulders roll back and down toward the shoulder blades. Don’t protrude your chest!!
  6. Keeping your spine erect and shoulders back and relaxed, continue breathing this way, following the even movement of your abdomen in and out.

Notes for Computer Users If you sit at your computer for any length of time, you’ll notice some interesting things:
  • You will slouch in your chair
  • Your arms are bent at the elbow and straining at the keyboard
  • This breathing practice will help you maintain relaxation in your body and especially in your arms and shoulders.
  • Remember to keep your elbows down!

Always Breathe Out First!
This may seem silly or obvious. But...
Think about it - we are already holding our breaths from the tense situation that we are in.
Whenever I ask someone to breathe, the first thing that the person does is to inhale - adding tension to an already tense body.
So Exhale - let your body Release first! And practice your breathing.