To put it simply,
Deep breathing means - Adopting a habit of breathing deeply.
From your nostril not from your mouth. That's it !
Normally most people ( i.e. almost 95 % of all of us) who are leading a sedentary life style and working on jobs that requires 'using their heads' all day long, the outcome of a busy, complex and demanding life is somewhat like this:
No energy in the end of the day, mental sluggishness, dilapidated bodies, greater susceptibility to germ and infections, wear-and-tear of the entire body, more work for the heart, irregular blood pressure, tensions in body and nerves etc.
Remember this important fact
To function properly, our brain needs three times more oxygen
than the rest of our organs; and unless this is provided it will try to appropriate its supply by drawing on the over-all allotment !
This explains why so many city people, working at sedentary jobs, doing mental work all day long, tend to become dilapidated and have greater susceptibility to germ and infections than persons who lead active outdoor lives. Sedentary individuals are permanently oxygen-starved. Yet this situation can be avoided at will.
Breathing is an activity which is indispensable for our existence. Nobody can live without breathing as the oxygen is the life blood of all organisms on earth.
However, most of us breath in a shallow manner. The inhalation and exhalation of air in and out of body occurs on a very superficial level in most of us. People just don’t care to inhale deeply since they don't find any compulsive urge to do so.
Though not breathing deeply does not harm us directly, it has its own long term negative effects on our body.
What happen when we do not adopt correct breathing
As the average person reaches middle age, lung tissues tend to grow less and less elastic. Years of improper breathing take their toll. The chest itself has a tendency to grow rigid The consequences is an accumulation of uric acid in the blood stream which often leads to those vague syndromes of pain and discomfort that doctors in general diagnose with a shrug as the miseries of aging, which they can cheerfully advise you to learn to live with since nothing can be done about them.
Backaches, headaches, stiffening muscles and joints, neuritis, rheumatism are some of the more common of these complaints. Excess fat is another, for as we begin to grow old and proper circulation is impeded by a sluggish diaphragm or hardening arteries, the red blood corpuscles become distributed unevenly and fat accumulates in spots instead of being burned up.
However, all of these complaints may be avoided, or at least considerably retarded, if only we learn to breath scientifically. Deep breathing (along with Deep Contraction) also has a direct salutary effect on Obesity, Since the cleansing, stimulating action of deep breathing improves metabolism and that, in turn, transforms deposits of fat into body fuel, or added energy.
Just incorporate a habit of deep breathing in your busy, complex and demanding life and all the above negative outcomes of it will vanish like a magic !
Air is everything
Air is nourishment to our bodies just as much as food and drink. Air gives our blood the supply of oxygen it must have in order to feed itself so that it may, in turn, feed the tissues, nerves, glands and vital organs. Without it our skin, bones, teeth and hair could not remain in condition. Our digestion-the process of utilizing the food we eat-fails at once without a proper supply of oxygen to the blood. Even our thinking processes are slowed down without intake and exhalation of fresh air-which is the reason mental sluggishness overtakes us in an ill-ventilated room
In a single day we breath about 23,000 times. The average volumes of air taken in with a single breath is about 20 cubic inches, depending on a person's size, sex, posture, the nature of the surrounding atmosphere and one's physical and emotional state. However, with proper attention given to the breathing, this volume may be increased to 100 or even 130 cubic inches per breath.
In other words,
Careful reorientation of your breathing habits can provide you with 5 times the oxygen and rid you of five times the carbon dioxide, with which you habitually function.
Soon I shall describe how you can perform such a careful orientation of your breathing habits and start breathing deeply in an unconscious manner.
But before that I want to give a simple explanation of our breathing mechanism.
Here is a simple explanation of our Breathing Mechanism
When you breathe properly (that is with the mouth closed so that the air is inhaled through nasal passages) oxygen travels down the pharynx (rear of the throat), the larynx (roughly in the area of Adam's apple), and the trachea or windpipe until it reaches the bronchial tubes. By then most of the dust and bacteria have been filtered out by the mucous membranes, or the moist lining of the nose. Mucous, by the way, in addition to acting as a filter substances, also has certain germicidal properties-another reason why it is so important to cultivate the habit of breathing though the nose. A third reason is that while traveling this somewhat longer road the air is warmed to proper body temperature, which means extra insurance against catching colds.
After having thus filtered and warmed, the supply of air moves on from the bronchiae into the lungs. Here it enters millions of cells-600,000,000 of them to be exact, if you can visualize such an astronomic figure-each of which is a tiny air sac. Surrounding these is a network of equally tiny blood vessels or capillaries. The blood absorbs the fresh oxygen directly through the cell walls at the same time as it rids itself of the carbon dioxide from the last trip.
Next the freshly oxygenated blood travels to the heart. The heart pumps it via arteries and blood vessels to every part of the body, where in turn it seeps into every tissue and bone cell. In this manner 800 quarts of blood pass through the heart and lungs every hour. Small wonder, then that the condition of your heart so closely governs you life expectancy !
By now it should be amply clear why both a proper technique of breathing and the quality of the air we take in are of such vital importance to our general health.
The practice of deep breathing produces immediate beneficial results. The person begins to experience lightness of body, an absence of restlessness, better digestion due to an increase in the flow of the gastric juices, clearing and smoothing of the skin. The physiological benefits I have already explained-now let the person discover for himself how quickly these will come to him once he establishes a daily routine of exercises. As for the spiritual well-being that will follow - the inner lightness, the serenity- it matters little whether you attribute them to oxygen burning out the wastes and poison in your gray matter or to more subtle influences, the important thing is that it is all yours to enjoy at will.
From about fifteen breath a minute-or 21,600 each 24 hour-you will have reduced your tempo by possibly three breath a minute, which is twenty percent, or 4,320 per day. Such a slowing-down means a corresponding easing of the wear-and-tear on the entire body-less work for the heart, lower blood pressure, a relaxation of body tensions, and a quieter nerves-in short, still another way to lengthen the years of your life and make them enjoyable !
The main problem with most of us is to learn how to keep breathing deeply continuously. We are so much accustomed to normal shallow breathing that it seems very difficult to adopt a habit of deep breathing. Since we start taking breath from the moment we come into this world, breathing has become an old habit. And if we are taking shallow breath (which in all likelihood we do), it is really difficult to alter this habit of shallow breathing and replace it with a new habit of deep breathing. However, it is not impossible and can be done. All that you need to make deep breathing a habit is a persistence effort.
Now I shall describe two very effective and easy methods for learning deep breathing . By using these simple exercises of breathing and awareness, which can be done anywhere, you can instantly learn how to breath deeply without a conscious effort. Just from the very first attempt, you'll start breathing deeply)
Two extremely easy methods to automate the deep breathing unconsciously.
There are many benefits of Deep breathing. However, very few of us are able to draw these wonderful benefits for the simple reason that most of us breathe in a staccato jerks, shallow and aimless manner.
We have become so used of this shallow breathing that it seems very natural to breath in this aimless way. Since barring a rare few among us, almost everybody of us breathe in this shallow manner, it is difficult to believe that we can easily adopt a continuous, unconscious habit of deep breathing very easily.
Whenever we give attention to our breathing and make some conscious effort to lengthen it, we easily start breathing deeply. However, as soon as our mind wanders in some other mental activity ( i.e. as soon as we become unconscious of the breathing process which happens almost always), we return to the 'shallow breathing mode'. This is the main problem among those who want to make deep breathing a part of their life. Let us discuss this problem and then its remedy:
" We have an habit of shallow breathing. As a result of which we are not able to inhale enough oxygen and exhale enough Carbon Dioxide from body. This resulted into a situation known as 'permanent oxygen starvation' resulting in 'permanent lack of energy' "
This problem is very old and has been rooted very deeply in our unconscious mind. Since we spend most of our time totally oblivious of the breathing process (which goes on its own just like other vital activities of body such as pumping of blood by heart, the digestion and other internal metabolism etc ) it is difficult to change this unconscious process of shallow breathing. However, it is not impossible and can be done easily if we make some sincere effort for it.
Two extremely easy method to automate the deep breathing unconsciously.
Here I will tell you how you can learn to assimilate on a permanent basis the habit of deep breathing so that you can breath deeply even in the unconscious state.
There are two methods by which you can learn deep breathing : The first is Pause Breath Method and the other is Pavlov Method
(1) The Pause Breath Method : This is a super powerful and extremely easy technique for start learning deep breathing - continuously and unconsciously ! This method is not only an extremely useful way of learning deep breathing, it is also an excellent meditation technique by itself By using this technique, you can start breathing deeply right now !
(2) The Pavlov Method : I call this method 'Pavlov Method' after the name of Great Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). Pavlov introduced to the world the concept of 'conditioned reflexes' . We will take the help of these 'conditioned reflexes' to make an unconscious habit of deep breathing.
Both the above two methods are equally effective and useful in learning Deep breathing. We shall learn them one by one.
The Pause Breath Method
The whole method can be summarized in the following two sentences:
" Focus your attention on the two pauses that occur while breathing. First - between inhalation and exhalation and then - between exhalation and inhalation. Just by doing this you will start taking deep breath automatically and unconsciously."
In order to understand what is the meaning of focusing our attention on the two pauses that occur between inhalation and exhalation and then between exhalation and inhalation, let us have a close look at our breathing process itself.
whenever we take breath - we inhale air and exhale air.
During inhalation, we inhale the air through our nostril and it (the air) goes inside our body via our nasal passage. And on reaching a certain depth in our body, it comes out as exhalation through the same nasal passage. After exhalation, the air again goes inside for inhalation. then comes out for exhalation....then again goes inside for inhalation....then comes out for exhalation....and this process keeps repeating itself. .
During these two continuous process of inhalation and exhalation, the air stops for a tiny moment. When we inhale air, it comes inside and travels a certain distance inside the body. Then at a particular point, somewhere inside the body, it stops for a fraction of second and return for exhalation. For an infinitesimally small moment it stops and then returns for exhalation.
See for yourself. Stop reading further and observe your own breath. As you breath, the air goes inside during inhalation and at a certain point, it takes a pause i.e. it stops for a small fraction of second and then returns for exhalation. The logic is simple - if something is going inside you ( the air in this case) then it can only come outside when it stops at a point and change its direction.
A good analogy is to imagine a running Car which wants to take U turn. When it'll reach at the U turn, it will stop and then take the U turn. similarly, when the air reaches inside the body, it stops somewhere for a moment and then turn back for exhalation. The moment when air stops for a very small duration inside our body and then turn back for exhalation is the first pause. This is the pause when inhalation stops and the process of exhalation is yet to start. Notice this pause.
Similarly when we exhale air, it passes through our nostril and moves outside our body. Then at a particular point it stops for a short moment and then returns for inhalation. The moment when air stops for a very small duration outside our body and then turn back for inhalation is the second pause. This is the pause when exhalation stops and the process of inhalation is yet to begin. Just notice the pause. Observe your breathing now and notice this second pause.
Let me repeat briefly: :
Whenever we inhale air, it goes inside our body and at a certain point it stops for a moment. There is a pause. At this pause the process of inhalation stops but the exhalation is yet to begin. It is an infinitesimally small but a definite pause. Similarly when we exhale air, it goes outside our body and at a certain point it stops. Again there is a pause. At this pause the exhalation stops but the inhalation is yet to begin. It is also an infinitesimally short but a definite pause.
For making your breathing deeper you have to focus your attention on these two pauses : the first that occur just after the inhalation (and just before the start of exhalation) and the second pause that occur just after the exhalation (and just before the start of inhalation).
Please remember that you are not required to focus your attention on any particular points inside or outside your body where these two pauses occur. The exact physical location where these pauses occur does not matter. It is not necessary. Just keep in mind that the main thing is not the location of pause but the pause itself. The fact is that while inhalation or exhalation, your breath pause for a moment before shifting from inhalation to exhalation or vice-versa. You have to aware yourself of that pause. Your aim should be to be aware of these two pauses. That's all ! .
Now as you read this, you can do this right now. No matter where you are, or who you are, one thing is certain. You are breathing right now ! So you can try it right now. Just observe your breath. The air is going inside and coming outside. Look for those two pause. Notice the air as it goes inside your body. Be aware of path it take inside your body. Notice how it stops somewhere in your body ( though for a very small short lived moment) Notice the pause which occurs when the inhalation stops and the exhalation is yet to begin. Just be aware of that pause. With a little observation, you can easily recognize these two pause. Similarly when the air goes outside, observe it carefully. Observe as the air moves outside your body and stops at a particular point before returning. Observe this external pause which occur when the exhalation stops and the inhalation is yet to begin. With a little attention you can easily recognize this external pause.
What will happen when you focus your attention on this two pause ?
Friend, as you focus your attention on these two pauses during breathing, soon you'll notice that your breathing has started becoming deeper and deeper. You will be astonished to experience the effect of this miraculous method yourself. Do this for five minutes right now. Close your eyes. Sit comfortably and observe your breathing. Notice those two pause.
Don't try to control your breathing.
If it slow let it be.
If it is moderate or fast, let it be.
Just focus your attention on the two pause that occurs : first - between inhalation and exhalation and then - between exhalation and inhalation.
Do it for 5 minutes now.
You will be surprised to see that just by focusing your attention on these two pause, your breathing is becoming deeper and deeper. You will instantly start breathing deeply just by being aware of these twp pauses.
Initially start focusing on these breathing pauses twice a day for 15 minutes each. Morning and evening are best time for this. These two 15 minutes session of pause breathing will prove very beneficial for you. In order to avoid distraction, try to perform these pause breathing session in a peaceful, lonely place if possible . As you perform this method of focusing your attention on pauses, you will find that even when you stop focusing your attention on pause ( that is after a 15 minute session), your breathing is still deeper and relaxed. It is the most wonderful effect of this method. It leaves a sort of cascading long lasting effect. A tiny 15 minute session of pause breath will make your breathing deeper and relaxed for more than one hour !
Slowly-slowly as you practise this 'pause breath' method, your ability to take deep breath will increase on its own. By using this simple technique of pause breathing with perseverance, you will soon develop an unconscious habit of deep breathing that will go on automatically. Give a try to this method...This is the easiest and most effective method of learning deep breathing.
Also Read : Soham : The mantra that repeats itself (The use of 'pause breath' method as a meditation technique.)
The Pavlov Method of Deep Breathing : This method of deep breathing is based on the technique used by Great Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) while introducing the concept of 'conditioned reflexes' .We will take the help of these 'conditioned reflexes' to make an unconscious habit of deep breathing.
First of all, let us see what are these 'Condition reflexes'
There are many actions (process) in our body which are not in our control. They happen on their own. Like beating of heart, digestion, circulation of blood etc. Breathing is also a process which is beyond our control. 'Conditioned reflexes' are the tools with the help of which we can control some of these seemingly uncontrolled process.
Let us understand these 'conditioned reflexes' in some more detail.
Pavlov did an interesting experiment on dogs. He noted that whenever he gave food to dogs, they started salivating( the secretion of salivary glands in mouth in the anticipation of food) and their digestion process started. He noted that whenever dogs saw that food is coming, the salivation started in their mouth.
Pavlov wanted to know whether this process of salivation and digestion in dogs can be influenced by any external factor (stimuli).
So he did a little experiment. He started ringing a bell while giving food to dogs. Whenever, he gave food to dogs, he rang a bell. He repeated this process regularly for sometime. Slowly dogs become accustomed to this habit. Whenever they heard the sound of bell, they took it as the sign of food coming.
One day, at the time of food, Pavlov rang the bell. The dogs became attentive in anticipation of food. However, Pavlov didn't gave them food. He just rang the bell. However, he noted that dogs still started salivating and their digestion process started even in the absence of food.
Now salivation is a process which is not in our control. It happens on its own whenever we saw or eat food. However, in this experiment, the sound of bell started the salivation process in dogs. What actually had happened was that the brains of dogs began to associate the two incident of 'ringing a bell' and 'serving of food' together. Since they are occurring simultaneously, the brain of dogs took the mere sound of bell as the indication for food even when no food was served.
This process in which the brain began to associate the ringing of bell with food is known as conditioning.
We will use this conditioning to make a habit of deep breathing.
Using 'Conditioned Reflexes' for Deep Breathing
There are many physical and mental activities which we perform almost daily. Like walking, eating, drinking, bathing, driving, cleaning our teeth, driving, reading newspapers & books, surfing the net, playing an indoor or outdoor game etc . The list is endless. The main thing is that we perform these activities almost daily. Right ?
We will use these activities as external stimuli to train our nervous system (mind) to automate the process of deep breathing.
Let us take 'Walking'. Everyday we walk. We walk for different purposes in different places. We walk in a park in the morning, we walk to the market, we walk in our house, to the bus stand, to our boss's room, to attend a meeting or prayer, to meet someone somewhere and in many many other circumstances of life. We may use this walking activity to learn deep breathing.
Whenever we walk, it is for a purpose. We walk in the Garden early morning basically for the purpose of good health. We walk to the market for the purpose of buying something. We walk to bus stand or Railway Station for the purpose of reaching somewhere. We walk in our home for many purpose. We walk to our boss's room for some official purpose, we walk to meet someone, somewhere for a purpose. We walk into the bathroom for the purpose of bath. In short almost always whenever we walk it is for a small or big purpose. Agree ?
So what you have to do is to choose any purposeful walk. Just one. It may be the walk in the morning, or walk in the office, walk to the bus stop or any other purposeful walk. Now, whenever you walk for that particular purpose, breath deeply. I mean whenever you walk for that purpose , give proper attention to your breathing and be aware of the inhalation and exhalation process. While walking for that specific purpose, try to breath as deeply as you can.
The important thing is that breath deeply only (and always) when you walk for that particular purpose. For all other occasions of walking (and for other physical and mental activities) forget about this deep breathing and take breath in the way you normally do. However, whenever you walk for that particular purpose, breath deeply.
Understand it with an example. Suppose you choose to breath deeply while walking to the bus stop for the purpose of catching the bus. Now whenever, you walk to the bus stop, breath deeply while walking. Give proper attention to your breathing while you walk and breath as deeply as you can. After catching the bus, restore the normal breathing and forget about this deep breathing. Repeat this process daily. Initially, it will be difficult. Often you'll forget about deep breathing. However, please remember that you are not required to breath deeply throughout the day. Only when you walk to the Bus-Stop for catching the bus, you have to take deep breathing. It's not that difficult. Is it ? All of us can do it easily. It is true that initially you'll have to make conscious efforts for breathing deeply while walking to the bus stop, but soon your mind will be conditioned for this automatically.
Just as in Pavlov's experiments the dogs started salivating on hearing the bell, in the same way soon you will start breathing deeply automatically as you walk to the bus-stop.
Please don't think that I am comparing you with dogs (if some of you are thinking that way) I am just trying to tell that this Pavlov experiment can be very very useful for us in controlling the unconscious process of deep breathing.
The automatic arrival of Conditioned reflex
Do you know what you will be doing while you choose to take deep breath while walking for the purpose of catching a bus? You unconsciously train your mind to start associating the 'process of deep breathing' with 'walking to the bus stop'. Slowly the simultaneous process of 'walking to catch a bus' and 'deep breathing' will become automatic. You'll see that even when you forget to breath deeply while walking to bus stop, your mind reminds you automatically to breath deeply. In other words a 'conditioned reflex, will be created in the form of that 'purposeful walk to the bus stop. Whenever you take a walk to catch a bus, you'll start breathing deeply on your own.
Now this is just one example involving a very small portion of your daily activities. Once you perfect this small deep breathing lesson, you can apply it in your other regular activities also. For example you can choose another purposeful walk. Let's say - choose the walk in the morning or 'an after meal walk' in the evening. Whenever you go for this walk, breath deeply and slowly an association will be created between this walk and deep breathing. You can try other activities also. For example you can choose eating. Whenever you eat anything, breath deeply. Give attention to your inhalation and exhalation process while eating. Slowly an association will be formed between the process of 'eating' and 'deep breathing' and you'll start breathing deeply as soon as you start eating anything. Apply this experiment of association on other activities of your daily routines. After a practice of two -three months, you will be able to create many association between deep breathing and your daily activities which in turn will add up to yours taking 3-4 hour of deep breathing daily. Taking such a good amount of pure oxygen than the amount you would take normally ( i.e. without breathing deeply) will give you an unbelievable jest and energy. Not only your internal metabolism will improve but your overall physical and mental efficiency will improve greatly. This means less wear and tear of body, less exhaustion, less weakness and more vitality along with an enhanced capacity to work more.
Of all the yogic arts, deep breathing is the simplest and most efficient. It can be done anywhere, anytime with no restriction.