Breathing is a natural reflection of the people, but not everyone knows how to breathe to maximize the ability of the respiratory organs. Most of us breathe incorrectly, often bearting shortness and exhausted, should not fill the lungs. Many studies have shown that that many of us use only one third or half the volume of the lung. A large portion of our lungs are not used and the air filled with old stock, which is the cause of colds and respiratory disease.
Most of us use three or four kinds of breathing. These may be called high, low and middle breathing and complete breathing. The complete breath is a combination of high breathing, mid breathing and low breathing.
High breathing refers to what takes place primarily in the upper part of the chest and lungs. This has been called “clavicular breathing” or “collarbone breathing” and involves raising the ribs, collarbone and shoulders. One may deliberately draw in his abdomen and force its contents upward against the diaphragm and into the chest cavity in order to cause high breathing. High breathing is naturally shallow and a larger percentage of it fails to reach the alveoli and enter into useable gaseous exchange.
This is the least desirable form of breathing since the upper lobes of the lungs are used and these have only a small air capacity. Also the upper rib cage is fairly rigid, so not much expansion of the ribs can take place. A great deal of muscular energy is expended in pressing against the diaphragm and in keeping the ribs and shoulders raised abnormally high. This form of breathing is quite common, especially among women, probably because they often wear tight clothes around the waist which prevents the far superior abdominal breathing. It’s a common cause of digestive, stomach, constipation and gynecological problems.
Middle breathing is a little harder to describe since the limits of variability are more indefinite. Yet it is breathing in which mainly the middle parts of the lungs are filled with air. It exhibits some of the characteristics of both high breathing, since the ribs rise and the chest expands somewhat, and low breathing, since the diaphragm moves up and down and the abdomen in and out a little. It has been called thoracic or intercoastal or rib breathing. But too often it also remains a shallow type of breathing. With this form of breathing, the ribs and chest are expanded sideways.
This is better than high breathing, but far inferior to low breathing and the yoga complete breath technique
Low breathing refers to what takes place primarily in the lower part of the chest and lungs. It is far more effective than high or mid breathing. It consists mainly in moving the abdomen in and out and in changing the position of the diaphragm through such movements. Because of this, it is sometimes called “abdominal breathing” and “diaphragmic breathing.”
To do low breathing, when you inhale you push the stomach gently forwards with no strain. When exhaling you allow the stomach to return to its normal position.
This type of breathing is far superior to high or mid breathing for four reasons:
- More air is taken in when inhaling, due to greater movement of the lungs and the fact that the lower lobes of the lungs have a larger capacity than the upper lobes.
- The diaphragm acts like a second heart. Its piston-like movements expand the base of the lungs, allowing them to suck in more venous blood. The increase in the venous circulation improves the general circulation.
- The abdominal organs are massaged by the up and down movements of the diaphragm.
- Low breathing has a beneficial effect on the solar plexus, a very important nerve center.
Complete breathing is a combination of the above three breathing patterns will give us many benefits of heath. The complete breath, as defined by yoga, involves the entire respiratory system and not only includes the portions of the lungs used in high, low and middle breathing, but expands the lungs so as to take in more air than the amounts inhaled by all of these three kinds of breathing together when they are employed in shallow breathing. The complete breath is not just deep breathing; it is the deepest possible breathing. Not only does one raise his shoulders, collarbone and ribs, as in high breathing, and also extend his abdomen and lower his diaphragm, as in low breathing, but he does both as much as is needed to expand his lungs to their fullest capacity.
Some of the most popular forms of pranayama are: Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma. There are other forms of breathing exercises that could be put into practice, like the Sitkari, Brahmari and Sithali. In the later stages, one practice exercises like the bandha: ujjayi, bhastrika, surya bheda and samanu.