Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ten Secrets For Better Breathing

Many times you will read about the importance of breathing correctly, how it is necessary to properly oxygenate your blood and expel carbon-dioxide from your body, but not too many people clue you in as to how to do that. Dennis Lewis, creator of Authentic Breathing Resources LLC, has made breathing his life's work. His books and workshops teach proper breathing techniques that help you live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Here are ten secrets for better breathing, from Dennis's website. These may also be found in his book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully

I have added a few comments of my own which I've enclosed in brackets [].

1. If possible in your daily life, inhale and exhale only through your nose, even when you are doing aerobic exercise. [Breathing through your nose helps keep germs from getting into your lungs, and warms the air coming into your body which is less of a shock to your system in cold weather. Also, breathing through the mouth causes an uncomfortable dryness in the mouth and throat.]

2. Sense the movement of your breath frequently in the midst of your everyday activities. Remember not to hold your breath. [It's all about awareness….if you remember to sense your breath, you'll remember to breathe correctly, and be "in the moment." If you hold your breath, you are also holding onto carbon-dioxide, and depriving your cells of needed oxygen…you don't want to do that!]

3. Be sure your belly stays relaxed. Let it expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Touch it and massage it frequently. Your belly is the foundation of your breath. [Many people believe breathing starts at the lungs and air is "sucked in." Breathing really starts at the diaphragm. As the contracting muscular action of the diaphragm expands the lungs, the muscles of the chest help to pull in the air. Good posture supports good breathing.]

4. Breath is life and movement. Let your breath engage and fill every part of your body, especially your belly, back, spine, and chest. [This is a great practice that encourages you to "listen" to your body, too. Within the boundaries of belly, back, spine, and chest lie all your vital organs! Paying attention to the oxygen that revitalizes the cells of your organs as well as your muscles also brings your attention to areas of discomfort and stress. This will allow you to relax and release the tension before it becomes a serious problem.]

5. To transform your breathing, start with your exhalation, with "letting go." [This serves two purposes: 1) it encourages you to fully exhale, releasing any built-up carbon-dioxide in your system. 2) it is symbolic of getting a "fresh start" with your breathing practice.]

6. A long, slow exhalation helps harmonize your diaphragm and turns on your "relaxation response." [Slow, deliberate movement of any kind will help to stimulate the "relaxation response" but breathing is especially important in that regard since it also affects your heart rate and blood pressure. Stress makes the muscles tense, the heart beat faster, and the blood pressure rise (sometimes due to the shallow breathing many people experience during stressful moments). Slow, deliberate breathing will calm a fast-beating heart, reduce blood pressure, and provide oxygen to muscles enabling relaxation.]

7. Sense the natural pause after exhalation; let yourself rest there for a moment. [People are in such a rush to do everything…don't be in a rush to breathe, too! It will shorten your life. My comment on number 6 applies here, also…..slow down and relax. It's good for you!]

8. Let your inhalation arise by itself, when it’s ready. [Your body is pretty good at knowing what it needs and the right way to get it. Follow your body's natural tendencies toward health and wellness.]

9. Sense the various breathing spaces of your body several times a day. Smile into these spaces and observe how your awareness helps them open and close effortlessly. [There is a qigong practice called Organ Rejuvenation or Smiling Qigong. It is simply the practice of taking time each day to put your attention on each of your major organs – liver, heart, stomach/spleen, lungs, and kidneys – and smile at each of them while doing a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. You can't be angry, upset, or stressed out if you are smiling! This practice puts your intentions to work creating a healthy body and relaxed emotional state. It's very beneficial!]

10. Remember, you are a breathing being, alive right now and here. Let yourself feel the mystery and the miracle of your breath and your life as often as you can. [I can't add anything to that except: Yes!]

Copyright 2004-2007 By Dennis Lewis. From "The Ten Secrets of Authentic Breathing," in

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G said...

We just FINALLY got back to doing yoga on a regular basis. That really brings to mind the need to breathe properly. And of the results, better sleeping right away, to name one. Thanks M.

Michelle said...

Good for you! There's nothing better than qigong or yoga to remind you of the importance of proper breathing.

jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com said...

I've always had difficulty breathing. although I know about the whole tummy thing, I didn't realize exhaling is better done through the nose. I've always thought otherwise. Breathing is something natural for us. Somehow, we take it for granted... thus, leading to a lot of health problems. Thanks for the heads up.

Michelle said...

Hi Jen,

You're welcome.

It's very true, breathing is so automatic that people forget they can control it. Good breathing habits are easy to create, it just takes a bit of time and attention and practice. :-)

I hope you are able to solve your breathing difficulties. Good luck!

Geraldine said...

When I took yoga classes years ago, from a teacher with years of experience and training, it was always to breathe 'in through the nose and out through the mouth' I guess this is something that could be debated. Seems natural to me after all these years, to go this route...

Michelle said...

Hi Geraldine,

I actually teach breathing both ways, depending on what we are doing!

In Eight Pieces of Brocade qigong, breathing is entirely through the nose. In Eight Healing Sounds, we have to exhale through the mouth or we couldn't properly make the sounds.

I think different traditions have their reasons for teaching certain breathing patterns or styles, especially in energy practices like qigong and yoga.

As a general rule for everyday respiration, I believe Dennis suggests breathing through the nose as much as possible as a way to establish a good breathing habit. :-)