"…and He blew into his nostrils the soul of his life."
Adam's first act as a living being was to inhale the breath of his life. A baby's first action too is it's first inhaled breath. A baby breathes from its stomach i.e. abdominal breathing. This is the most natural breath. As a person grows older the breath forms higher and higher in the chest until his last breath, an expiration is from the center of the throat. Breathing, both the inhale and exhale, becomes forced and unfinished. Breathing from the chest, or shallow breathing, is very tiring and often results in an incomplete breath. This action does not fill the lungs completely and leaves stale air in the lungs. In many people the bottom halves and top lobes of the lungs are rarely, if ever, used causing toxins to congregate in these areas of the lungs. Shallow lung breathing does not cause the diaphragm to move very much. Diaphragmatic movement causes the lower internal organs, liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas, small and large intestines, to compress and decompress stimulating them and giving them a gentle massage forcing toxins out of them. Shallow breathing deprives the body of this stimulation. In addition, the sage Nachmanodies stated that God shortened men's lives by changing the quality of their air. For longer life then, it is worthwhile to seek an environment where the air is clean especially for infants and young children who are more sensitive to poor air quality. Therefore, the first thing we have do to is to relearn how to breathe.
Some people may find it painful to take a full breath. This may be a symptom of asthma and should be checked by a doctor. In any event, it is still worthwhile performing the exercises listed. Modify the exercise so that the full breath is limited to the point of pain and no further.
Try to do at least one of these exercises in the morning so that it sets the tone for your breathing during the day.
Proper breath by itself has an extraordinary calming and healing effect. By practicing breathing as a stand-alone exercise, we can call upon it when we feel stressful situations arise to help us cope with the situation in a calm and effective manner. We can also call upon the breath when pain develops anywhere in the body by "directing" the breath to the pained area. Performing at least one full chest and abdominal breath (Exercise 2) before prayer or meeting with people helps clear and calm the mind. Perform Exercise 2 whenever you feel your temper rise.
Exercise 1. Abdominal Breathing
Perform the following exercise lying down comfortably on your back. Use an exercise mat or several blankets, as a bed is too soft and the floor too hard. However, a bed or floor will do until you get something better. You can enhance the effects of this exercise by placing a weight on your diaphragm. Start with a small weight and gradually increase the weight allowing at least a month between increases
Place your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen so that they lie on either side of your navel.
Keeping your mouth closed, inhale through your nostrils.
Begin to exhale slowly, while pressing your hands down lightly so that the abdomen forms a hollow cavity. This motion gently forces the air out of the lower lungs. As you do part four of the exercise, imagine that every drop of air is leaving the lungs and that as it leaves the microorganisms are carried out also.
After you have exhaled completely, slowly inhale again. As you inhale, extend your abdomen outward so that it becomes like a balloon. Try not to allow the chest to expand-use only the muscles in your lower abdomen.
One complete exhalation, followed by an inhalation, constitutes one round of breathing. At first you will probably only be able to do two or three rounds of breathing at one sitting. Gradually you will be able to increase the number until you have reached 12 rounds.
You may lengthen the time of each round as you progress with this exercise.
You may perform this exercise with a weight on your abdomen. Between 2 and 5 pounds to start.
Exercise 2. Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing
This exercise may be performed in any position, sitting, standing or lying down. In the lying down position you can enhance the effects of this exercise by placing a weight on your diaphragm. Start with a small weight and gradually increase the weight allowing at least a month between increases.
Inhale step. Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose expanding both chest and abdomen. When the diaphragm drops down, the abdomen is expanded allowing the air to rush into the vacuum created in the lungs. Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing the lungs to fill completely. As you breathe, imagine that the action bypasses the nose, bypasses the throat, bypasses the lungs, bypasses the diaphragm, and bypasses the abdomen. Breath directly into your perineum. Check yourself for tension in any area of the imagined breath passage, nose, throat, lungs, sternum and ribcage, diaphragm, and abdomen. Relax the area of tension. Take the time to do this slowly.
Hold for one to six seconds. On the hold, do not clamp down on the breath. Hold because you cannot breath in any more.
Exhale. As you exhale allow the breath to escape slowly through the mouth. Do not force the breath out. Do not blow the air out. Open your mouth and allow the breath to escape naturally. If you relax completely the air will escape completely. Check yourself for tension in any area of the imagined breath passage, nose, throat, lungs, sternum and ribcage, diaphragm, and abdomen. Relax the area of tension. Take the time to do this slowly.
Hold for one to six seconds. Do not clamp down on the breath. Hold because you cannot exhale anymore.
Repeat several times and several times a day.
Exercise 3. Interval Breathing
After you have performed the above exercise for at least three months then try interval breathing.
Perform exercise 2 except do not breath in or out on one count. Try inhaling and exhaling on three, five, or seven counts. Try inhaling on one, three, five or seven counts and some other combination on the exhale, one, three, five or seven counts.