Breathing for Life!
Our whole life depends on efficient breathing. We can go more than a month without food, several days without water, but air? Without oxygen, our brain will die within minutes. So more than anything else, we should concentrate on improving our oxygen intake.
Our blood oxygenates our body by circulating and sending oxygen to every part of our body. When we don’t take in enough oxygen, our body feels it and becomes easily fatigued and sluggish. Since our brain uses up more than 80% of the oxygen we take in, when there is insufficient oxygen, we get headaches, and we feel less alert, more slow-reacting and more sluggish.
There are two things we can do to improve our oxygen intake. First, drink more water. Not just any kind of water, but clean, unadulterated life-giving water. This means water that has undergone distillation or reverse osmosis to remove all harmful contaminants, leaving only the purest drinking water.
Secondly, we can improve our respiration. It is so easy to take this for granted. Most adults take in oxygen very inefficiently, with short shallow inhalations and exhalations, using only the upper chest cavity. That means cutting your oxygen intake to less than half!
Qigong/chi kung practitioners and yogis know how to optimize their oxygen intake. They practice many different respiratory and meditation techniques, but the basic respiration exercise remains the same. Here are the steps:
To inhale fully, you must utilize the entire chest cavity, expanding your lung capacity to its fullest. This means pulling down the diaphragm muscle situated just below the rib cage to expand the thoracic cavity.
So when you inhale, do it slowly, deeply and evenly. Feel your diaphragm pull down and your abdomen push out. See in your mind’s eye your abdomen filling with air and expanding.
Then, pause a short moment, before slowly exhaling. Let your chest collapse, as you begin to flatten out your stomach once more. Pause once more before repeating the entire cycle again.
If you are new at this and have trouble getting your abdominal and diaphragm muscles to move the way you want, try sitting down or even lying flat on your back when doing the exercise. You can also place a book on your tummy for visual feedback.
Diaphragmatic or abdominal respiration, is the most efficient way to take in oxygen. Young children practice this naturally all the time. That is why they have so much energy. Just watch them as they play and run around: their tummies move in and out like little bellows!
And if you ever have a headache coming, just take a few minutes to do the basic qigong/chi kung exercise I just outlined for you or the Alternating Nostril Technique, another diaphragmatic respiratory exercise, and you'll find your headache starting to diminish!
Find yourself short on energy? Can’t concentrate, get easily distracted or absent-minded? Or you get easily tired, sluggish and slow to react? Now you can literally take a breather! Drink lots of water and practice a few minutes of the diaphragmatic respiration technique. You'll begin to feel relaxed, well rested and ready to work again in no time!
One of the first things I teach my qigong/chi kung students is how to take in oxygen more efficiently. If they are shallow breathers, they will sometimes complain that initially, the exercise gives them cramping pain. That is because they are using muscles that they are unaccustomed to using.
If you are not used to deep respiration, practice taking in oxygen using the diaphragmatic technique for short periods, then gradually increase your respiration workout until you can do it automatically without thinking about it.
This is the way you should always breathe. And by doing so, you'll not just have fed your oxygen-starved body and brain, but also extended your life that much more. Because every life-giving breath you take in through qigong/chi kung, you extend your life by an extra twenty breaths!
That is what qigong/chi kung meditation is all about — life-extending yogic breathing. Efficient respiration builds up vital chi energy, the intrinsic life force (a.k.a. prana) that in turn builds the immune system, promoting health and longevity.
Try it. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is literally a life-giving breathing exercise, rich in oxygen, rich in life.