by Nischala Joy Devi.
March 27, 2014.
Reverse breathing is a habit that is born out of being frightened over and over again. As we feel fear, our “normal” sympathetic response is to inhale and hold the breath. This allows the blood to be shunted to our extremities, supplying the energy needed to fight or to flee. With this inhalation, the belly is also sucked in—as if the wind has been knocked out of us. (This is the opposite position the abdomen takes in the normal inhalation.) We then hold the breath in until the danger passes. Quickly, with an outward and audible sigh, the breath and belly release.
In our normal, relaxed breath, the lungs are inflated as the belly expands. The diaphragm moves down into the abdomen to allow more extension of the lungs. In reverse breathing, the belly tightens, basically saying, “No room here.” When we breathe this way we are actually fighting our body’s own natural flow.
If this breathing pattern becomes chronic, the breathing is restricted and insufficient. Each time we inhale improperly, we unknowingly trigger a fear response in our bodies and minds.
In most cases this reverse breathing can easily be corrected by focusing on the correct way to breathe.
One of the interesting parts of this breathing process is that when one is asleep, the reverse breathing reverts back to normal briefing. Is that fear memories stored in the body or the mind?
As we begin to expand the chest and lungs in deep inhalations, we find the air flows in easily. The lungs relax and the air seems to leave the body by itself. The diaphragm then pushes gently against the lungs to coax out the last bit of air. As you develop control you’ll find that the exhalation is effortless.
Observe your breath and notice whether the inhalation or the exhalation is longer. Most of us inhale for a longer time than we exhale. This can also be interpreted as a statement about our society. We want to take in as much as possible and give out as little as possible!
With the continuation of the yogic breathing practices, the exhalation will gradually increase until it becomes twice as long as the inhalation. We focus on the exhalation, the letting go. The inhalation then comes back in naturally.
To get the feeling of deep exhalation, verbally sigh on the slow exhalation: “Ahhhhh!” We are not breathing out twice as much air; we are simply taking twice the time to breathe out. By encouraging a long, slow exhalation, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and toned, allowing us that feeling of relaxation.
Breathing this new, deeper way actually encourages the heart to rest. The heart, being a great servant, rests only in between beats. Long exhalations give the heart more time to relax.
These simple lessons from the heart and breath can change our view of living in this world. When we have time to rest and nourish ourselves, we then can enjoy giving twice as much as we receive.
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