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Exercises to Enhance Breath and Awareness of Breathing

Begin with noticing your breath. Even as you read these words your breathing changes. In our busy lives, we focus on what is going on around us and don't notice our breathing because it is so automatic. Your breath moves every bone in your body from your feet to the cranial bones in your head.  Breath awareness is the beginning of self awareness. The breath is what brings us energy. The breath cleanses the body. Breathing relaxes tight muscles (they just need more oxygen!)  Breathing is more efficient when done with the abdomen.  The power is in the diaphragm that is a dome shaped muscle attached under the last attached rib. It divides the thorax from the abdomen. There are three major origins all inserting on a central tendon.  The sternal origin is from the xiphoid process.  The costal origin is on the inner surface of lower six ribs and the fibers interdigitate with those of the transverse abdominis muscle.  The vertebral origin or lumbar origin arises from the bodies of L1-L3.  The lower part of the lungs are attached to the superior surface of the diaphragm.  When it contracts, the diaphragm increases the volume of the lungs and causes air to enter the lungs (inspiration).  When the diaphragm relaxes, the dome moves upward, decreasing the volume of the lungs and forcing air out of the lungs.

Exercise 1: Lay on your back on the floor, feet stretched out and feel your body against the floor, eyes closed. Can you feel how your legs lay on the floor? What parts do not touch the floor? Can you feel the back of your calves, your knees, your thighs? Your hips-do they touch the floor evenly side to side? Is one higher than the other? Can you feel your low back? Your mid-back? What part of your neck touches the floor? Does your head roll to one side or the other?

Now take a deep breath-really deep -enough to move as much of your body as you can. Can you feel your body move against the floor? Can you feel your ribcage, your back, your feet? Let it go and feel what releases in those same areas. Let your body fall into the floor.

Repeat this for 10 minutes if you can and vary the depth of the breathing -inhaling and exhaling as needed, slowly and with awareness. Notice the difference when you get up. Do you feel more relaxed? Don't worry if you don't yet. Just notice what your breath can do.

Exercise 2 : Continue the breathing exercise from day one. Follow your breath as it moves. Place one hand on your stomach below your navel and one hand above your navel. Let your hand rise and fall with each breath. Notice what each hand does. ( use one hand at a time if you want and alternate hands) When do the move up? When do they move down? Do they move together? Does one go up and one down? Do they always move? What happens when you change your breath? Can you make one go up while the other goes down?  Now place one hand below your navel and one on your upper chest near your sternum.  Feel what your breath does. Do your upper ribs move?
Can you feel how your diaphragm moves up and down?  This is a difficult one to feel.

What happens when you stop breathing? Any feeling of anxiety or tension?

Exercise 3: Lie on the floor again-comfortably. We are going to put a little stress on the breath. Don't do this if you have severe heart problems.

Exhale all the air in your lungs-expel every last bit. Now hold your breath and cover your mouth and nose so you don't cheat. Hold it as long as you can- and then hold it a little longer. Keep going as long as you can-until you feel like you can't take it anymore.

Now let go and inhale! What happens? Yes, you take a huge breath. Now what happens to the next one? Did you feel all your ribs expand and your head clear?

This is how each breath should be at each moment. That deep. If we did breathe that deep we would breath less often, but get more oxygen.  When we are stressed, the general tendency is to have shallower, shorter breaths.  This type of breathing can actually cause stress or at least add to it.

Try a few short fast breaths that almost make you feel like you are hyperventilating.
Notice what happens to your muscles, especially in your neck and shoulders.

Now try a few long, deep breaths and notice the difference.

When you are under stress, it will help to breath more deeply and slowly.











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