Breathing Techniques: Correct Breathing

One way of maximizing the flow of energy in the body is through breathing techniques. Teachers of Eastern exercises, devote a considerable amount of time to teaching their pupils how to breathe correctly – in Yoga, for example, breathing techniques called Pranayama are an important element to be learned. Breath is thought to form a bridge between the body and spirit – correct breathing links the two and strengthens both. Correct breathing is also said to be essential for creating a state of peaceful awareness and for speed, power and quick thinking.

From a Western view-point, full, deep breathing has many physical benefits; for example, it can lower blood pressure and increase lung capacity, ensuring that all the body’s organs receive plenty of oxygen. Deep breathing also helps to calm the mind, aiding mental relaxation and helping to overcome stress.

A Breathing Exercise

Eastern breathing techniques involve breathing from the abdomen. Try the following exercise: sit up straight and place your hand on your diaphragm (the hard muscle under the ribs between the lungs and the abdomen); breathe in through the nose, allowing your abdomen to push out into your hand a little (do not raise your shoulders); slowly exhale, and your abdomen will fall away from your hand; now breathe deeply again and feel your abdomen swell; slowly release the air and feel your abdomen fall. Do not force your abdomen in and out: allow it to move naturally. Feel how your breathing becomes deeper and slower.

Chants and shouts

Making a noise is important in improving breathing. Yoga practitioners may chant a mantra during meditation and martial arts practitioners make deep abdominal shouts while practising some techniques – to accompany a punch or throw in Tae Kwon Do, Karate and Aikido, for example. Chanting and shouting exercise the respiratory system, promoting oxygenation, circulation and elimination of waste products. The pushing out of breath makes the Qi flow out from the centre of the body and increases power and focus, as well as distracting and frightening an opponent.