Different methods of breathing

We can split the process of breathing into three parts: abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, intercostal or middle breathing and clavicular or upper breathing.

1. Abdominal breathing. This type of breathing is associated with the movement of the diaphragm and the outer wall of the abdomen. When relaxed this muscle arches upwards towards the chest. During inhalation it is flattened as it moves downwards, which compresses the abdominal organs and eventually pushes the front wall, the belly, of the abdomen outwards. This movement enlarges the chest cavity, downwards, allowing the lungs to expand and thereby draw in air from the surroundings. Relaxation of the muscles which pull the diaphragm downwards allows the diaphragm to move upwards again to reduce the volume in the chest cavity and thereby cause exhalation. This form of breathing draws in the greatest amount of air for the least muscular effort. It is often hampered, however, by tight belts and clothing which prevent movement of the belly outwards.

2. Middle breathing. This form of breathing is achieved by movement of the ribs. During expansion of the ribcage outwards and upwards by muscular contraction, the lungs are allowed to expand - this results in air being drawn into the lungs from the front side and inhalation taking place. When the muscles which control the movement of the ribs (the intercostals) are relaxed, then the ribs move downwards and inwards. This compresses the lungs and exhalation takes place.

3. Upper breathing. In this case the inhalation and deflation of the lungs is achieved by raising the shoulders and collarbone. This method requires much effort for little output. Very little air is inhaled and exhaled since this movement cannot change the volume of the chest cavity very much. Women often tend to restrict themselves to this type of breathing by wearing tight brassieres, corsets and belts which restrict the abdominal and middle breathing.

4. Yogic breathing. Yogic or deep breathing combines all these three modes of breathing -abdominal, middle, upper - into one harmonious movement. It is this type of breathing that we are interested in developing, since only yogic breathing can give the maximum inhalation and exhalation of breath.

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