Magical Sunsets in Crete by Wolfgang Staudt
The simple fact is that most people do not breathe well. There are numerous studies on the effects of poor breathing on your health.
If a person doesn’t breathe well then it contract their body and induces tension and stress…so learning to breath well is very important to solve this major health problem. But why do we breathe poorly and what is the cause?
First we must explore the basics of breathing. How does your body actually take a breathe? From your lungs? You actually don’t start your breathing from your lungs. The lungs are the sacs that fill up with air as your diaphragm is pushing in or out. It is actually your diaphragm that CAUSES the air to go in and out of your lungs.
As you probably know as people age their breathing tends to get worse. Many years of habitual shallow breathing causes the diaphragm to spasm. It’s similar to a hand that tenses and spasms. The diaphragm for most people isn’t a smooth running muscle. Instead it’s under immense tension, and very often it flutters.
When the diaphragm flutters it causes you to involuntarily hold your breath. Most of the time you don’t even know you’re doing it.
There are many other causes for holding of the breath. When we have strong emotional outbursts or tensions we can easily recognize that we hold our breath. But what is interesting is that many people hold their breath while they go about their normal activities. It’s due in part to diaphragm spasms and due also to lack of awareness on how to properly breath.
So an important component of breath training is getting your diaphragm to relax by working on it sufficiently, and by consciously making the motion of the diaphragm comfortable and smooth. This takes practice.
So the movement of the diaphragm is critical to having good general breathing, and is absolutely necessary for breathing with your lower belly in Taoist Longevity Breathing. If your diaphragm is extremely tense, your breath will not penetrate your internal organs and go all the way to the bottom of your belly, and then move on to your sides and your kidneys. It definitely won’t happen while you have involuntary spasms.
The degree to which you can release these involuntary spasms the better will be your breathing. It can become dramatically better just by working the diaphragm more and making your breath comfortable and smooth. A positive feedback loop is also created as the ability of your body to naturally relax will also be enhanced.
So to get the diaphragm involved in Longevity Breathing, put your fingers on your diaphragm–right at the bottom of your sternum and where your ribcage starts. With your fingers in place breathe in and breathe out. You might feel that there is a short, stop-start-stop-start. Just become aware of it and try to overcome it. Put your awareness in your diaphragm. Slow down your breathing and breathe in less.
You still inhale and exhale without stopping, but each time you consciously relax your diaphragm. Keep practicing until the pain or the pressure you feel from your fingers on your diaphragm begins to naturally diminish.
If you want to make this a habit then you will want to do this practice over and over again until your fingers being in your diaphragm no longer causes pain. Do it over and over again until the motion doesn’t have a start-stop quality as your diaphragm goes up and down.
Eventually the motion will become smooth and comfortable. Getting your diaphragm moving properly is one of the most important things you can do for your health and for life.