Preparations

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The purpose of this practice is to make the practitioner aware of the three different types of respiration, and incorporate them into yogic breathing.

Do not wear any clothing that will impede movement of your chest and abdomen.

Practise on a folded blanket, lying on a solid floor.

This exercise can be performed lying down in shavasana', or sitting in a cross-legged position, in which case you should make sure that your spine is as straight as possible without straining.

Place a cushion or folded blanket under the buttocks if necessary.

All breathing should be performed through the nose and not through the mouth.

The place to practise is in a well-ventilated clean room, with no breeze that might cause you discomfort.

1. ABDOMINAL BREATHING Relax your whole body.

Place one hand on the front of the abdomen on the navel. This is to indicate to you that your abdomen does indeed move up and down. Breathe out slowly and completely, and remember that it is this movement of your diaphragm that is responsible for your abdominal breathing.

As you breathe out feel your abdomen contract; the navel will move toward the spine. At the end of exhalation the diaphragm will be totally relaxed and will be bowing upwards into the chest cavity.

Hold your breath for a second or so. Then breathe in.

Try not to expand the chest or move the shoulders. Feel your abdomen expand, the navel moving upwards.

Try to breathe in slowly and deeply.

At the end of inhalation your diaphragm will be bowing in the direction of the abdomen;

your navel will be at its highest point.

Hold your breath for a second or two. Then exhale again, slowly and completely.

Again try to feel your navel moving towards the spine.

At the end of exhalation your abdomen will be contracted, the navel will be at its nearest point to the back.

Hold the breath for a short time, inhale and then repeat the whole process. This is abdominal breathing.

Continue this practice for 10 to 20 respirations, or more if time permits.

2. MIDDLE BREATHING

Assume a lying or sitting position as already described. Ensure that you are as relaxed as possible. In this practice the idea is to breathe by utilizing the movement of the ribcage. Throughout the practice try not to move the abdomen; this is done by slightly contracting the abdominal muscles.

If you wish you can place your hands on the side of the chest to feel the expansion and contraction of the ribs. Breathe in slowly by expanding the ribcage outwards and upwards. You will find it impossible to breathe deeply because of the limitation on the maximum expansion of the chest. Remember, try not to utilize the abdomen for inhalation. At the end of inhalation, hold your breath for a second or two.

Then slowly exhale by contracting the chest downwards and inwards.

Keep the abdomen slightly contracted, but without straining.

At the end of exhalation hold your breath for a short time.

Again breathe in slowly.

Repeat this process 10 to 20 times or more if time permits.

3. UPPER BREATHING

In this type of breathing you should try not to expand and contract either your abdomen or chest.

This is not so easy but try. Keep your hands on your chest so that you can determine whether your chest is moving or not.

Slightly contract the muscles of the abdomen.

Now try to inhale by drawing your collarbone and shoulders toward your chin.

This might be a little difficult at first. A good method is to inhale and exhale with a sniffing action; this automatically induces upper breathing.

Exhale by letting the shoulders and collarbone move away from the chin. There is no need to perform this type of breathing for very long; just enough to appreciate its operation, and the fact that it requires much effort and does not induce or expel very much air from the lungs.

We have practised and experienced the three different types of breathing. Now we have to integrate them into one harmonious whole to achieve yogic breathing.

4. YOGIC BREATHING

This combination of the three types of breathing induces optimum volume of air into the lungs and expels the maximum amount of waste air during exhalation.

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