Breathing seems pretty basic. You inhale… You exhale… You repeat.
It seems odd that one would need lessons on how to breathe, but more and more I am finding myself educating new patients on the importance of deep abdominal breathing. Usually, the topic of breathing first comes up while the patient is lying comfortably on the acupuncture treatment table. As I ask them to take a relaxing deep breath in, I usually see only their upper chest expand and rise.
Imagine a baby breathing; they resemble a little baby Buddha with their belly extending in and out. The breath is deep, even and slow, easy and calm. You will see that it is not the chest that is rising and falling, but rather it is the abdomen moving in and out.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine we refer to this area of the body as the Tan Tien. It is described as an important focal point for internal meditative techniques and refers specifically to the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below the navel and two finger widths deep within the abdomen.
Over the years, life in a crowded city with chronic pollution problems, lack of fresh air, stationary work environments and overall stress can result in the gradual shift from abdominal breathing to chest breathing. To figure out if you are breathing correctly place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of your lungs.
Instructions for proper abdominal breathing:
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils into the bottom of your Tan Tien When you’ve inhaled fully, pause for a moment and then exhale fully through your mouth. Purse your lips and imagine that you are blowing on a hot spoonful of soup. As you exhale, just let yourself go and imagine your entire body going loose and limp. It should take you twice as long to exhale as it did to inhale.
Learning and using proper breathing techniques is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long term physical and emotional health. Abdominal breathing helps to relax the nervous system, reduces stress and tension, lowers blood pressure, and calms the mind. Practicing abdominal breathing also massages and tones the internal organs – particularly the digestive organs.
We all live in and around this city together and experience the stresses and crowds that come with it. Stress is inevitable; coping is the key. Here are a few simple techniques that I have incorporated into my life and have shared with my patients:
- If you work in an office desk environment, place a sticky note on the corner of your computer that simply says “sit straight and breath deep,” to remind you to practice abdominal breathing throughout your day.
- When you find yourself in a store waiting on line, use that time to practice your abdominal breathing. Incorporate the breathing techniques while commuting; chances are you won’t mind the wait or the commute as much.
Getting back to proper breathing isn’t hard but it does take practice. So, make it a point to integrate abdominal breathing at least two to three times into each day and you will see a transformation in your physical and mental health transform.
By Sharon Wyse, LAc. Sharon practices acupuncture in NYC.
Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac., Herbalist, Author, Creator of HealthyStuffU.com
Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
32 Union Square East, Suite 615 N
New York, NY 10003