Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is practised by enhancing the action of the diaphragm and minimising the action of the ribcage.The diaphragm is a domed sheet of muscle that separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity and, when functioning correctly, promotes the most efficient type of breathing. It is the effect of the diaphragm rather than the diaphragm itself that is experienced as the stomach rises and falls, but sensitivity will come with practice. During inhalation the diaphragm moves downward, pushing the abdominal contents downward and outward. During exhalation the diaphragm moves upward and the abdominal contents move inward.
Movement of the diaphragm signifies that the lower lobes of the lungs are being utilized. The proper use of the diaphragm causes equal expansion of the alveoli, improves lymphatic drainage from basal parts of the lungs, massages the liver, stomach, intestines and other organs that lie immediately beneath it, exerts a positive effect on the cardiac functions and coronary supply, and improves oxygenation of the blood and circulation.
Abdominal breathing is the most natural and efficient way to breathe. However, due to tension, poor posture, restrictive clothing and lack of training, it is often forgotten.
Once this technique again becomes a part of daily life and correct breathing is restored, there will be a great improvement in the state of physical and mental wellbeing.
Abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing
Lie in shavasana and relax the whole body.
Place the right hand on the abdomen just above the navel and the left hand over the centre of the chest.
Observe the spontaneous breath without controlling it in any way. Let it be absolutely natural.
To practise abdominal breathing, feel as though you are drawing the energy and breath in and out directly through the navel.
The right hand will move up with inhalation and down with exhalation. The left hand remains almost still.
Let the abdomen relax. Do not try to force the movement in any way.
Do not expand the chest or move the shoulders.
Feel the abdomen expanding and contracting.
Continue breathing slowly and deeply.
Inhale while expanding the abdomen as much as is comfortable, without expanding the ribcage.
At the end of the inhalation, the diaphragm will be compressing the abdomen and the navel will be at its highest point.
On exhalation, the diaphragm moves upward and the abdomen moves downward. At the end of the exhalation, the abdomen will be contracted and the navel compressed towards the spine.
Continue for a few minutes.
Relax any effort and once again watch the spontaneous breathing pattern.
Bring the awareness back to observing the physical body as a whole.
Be aware of the surroundings and gently open the eyes.