Diaphragm is the chief organ controlling the breathing process in our body and is located just underneath the ribs. It separates the chest cavity from the abdomen. To breathe diaphragmatically, or with the diaphragm, one must draw air into the lungs in a way, which will expand the stomach and not the chest & no pressure should be felt in the lungs. When we inhale, fully and deeply, our diaphragm moves downward & the belly, lower ribcage and lower back all expand. When we exhale completely, diaphragm moves upward & the belly goes in. We take more oxygen inside & release more carbon dioxide with each breath. It helps to detoxify our inner organs, promote blood flow and pump the lymph more efficiently through our lymphatic system. Since lymphatic system is an important part of our immune system, it helps to harmonize our nervous system & a feeling of rejuvenation is experienced with this relaxed breath. Actually, it has a great impact on our overall health.
How To Cultivate Diaphragmatic Breathing
We'll do two Asanas to learn diaphragmatic breathing; these are Makarasana (the crocodile pose) & Shavasna. One can learn Diaphragmatic breathing in sitting as well as in standing posture.
Position To Practice Makarasana
Lie face down on the abdomen on the floor or on the bed. Keep your legs apart about 2 to 2 ½ feet, toes out to the sides; heels are in, facing towards each other. If it is not comfortable then bring the legs slightly closer & the tips of the big toes should touch each other. Now form a pillow with the arms by crossing the arms (place your right hand on the left shoulder, left hand on the right shoulder), Rest your forehead on your forearms. Keep the upper chest slightly uplifted from the floor, neck straight & let the shoulders relax. In this position, it is not possible to do chest breathing. Close your eyes and relax the whole body.
Take your attention away from all places & bring it to the place where you are lying down... Be aware of only the space your body is occupying from head to toe... now bring your awareness to the breath... Observe your breath without judgment as it moves in and out of the body... Breathe gently... slowly... smoothly. .. Let there be no jerks... no breaks ...in your breathing... Let it flow like a smooth stream... Let it slow down...While inhaling, feel your abdomen gently pressing against the floor or the bed... While exhaling, feel the abdomen release back toward the spine... Observe how that area gently touches the ground as you inhale... how it lifts from the ground as you exhale... Continue to observe the rise and fall of the stomach and navel area, with the gentle rhythm of your breathing... observe which muscles are moving to constitute that movement... When resting on your stomach and breathing in this manner, the lower back and the sides of the rib cage also expand... Attempt to release any muscle tension in the back to allow the breath to deepen... By observing that, learn to breathe correctly, so that you may always breathe in this manner... After 5 minutes or so, come out of the pose slowly & gently roll over & lie on the back in Shavasana.
Keep your feet apart about 3-4 inches, turn the toes sideways, arms are little away from the body, palms are facing upwards. Let the entire body relax. Continue breathing diaphragmatically as you were breathing in the Crocodile position... Breathe gently... slowly... smoothly... no jerks in your breathing... no break in your breathing... Observe the process of the diaphragm relaxing... contracting... observe the rise and fall of the stomach and the navel area... Now place your left palm in the center of your bosom and right palm on the stomach. Observe your left palm is still & your right palm is moving up & down on its own... after 1-minute or so, keep your left palm down with palm facing upwards. The right palm is still on the stomach. Feel the movement in your right palm for sometime...now keep the right palm down in its original position... Observe the flow of your breath, as though your breath is flowing through your whole body from top to toes and toes to top... Inhale a feeling of fullness, relaxation, peace and purity... Exhale all your tensions and stress. If you do these two exercises for 10-15 minutes each daily, you'll see lots of changes in your body & mind & you'll experience a new life.
Further Systematic Relaxation
Bring your attention to place where you are lying, Be aware of the space your body is occupying from head to toe, Be aware of only this moment in time & relax the whole body part by part. Let the different parts go limp as if you have no control over your body.
Focus your mind on the forehead... eyebrows... eyes... nostrils... cheeks... jaw and the corners of your mouth... chin... neck... neck joint... shoulders... shoulder joints... upper arms... elbows... lower arms... wrists... hands...fingers... fingertips. ..
Now back from fingertips... fingers... hands... wrists... lower arms... elbows... upper arms... shoulder joints... shoulders... chest,... heart area... stomach... navel... abdomen... pelvis... thigh joints... thighs...knees... calf muscles... ankles... feet...toes...
Now in the reverse order up the body
Toes... feet... ankles... calves... knees... thighs... thigh joints... pelvis... abdomen... navel... stomach... heart area... chest... shoulders... shoulder joints... upper arms... elbows... lower arms... wrists... hands...fingers... fingertips...
Now back from fingertips... fingers... hands... wrists... lower arms... elbows... upper arms... shoulder joints... shoulders... neck joint... neck, chin... jaw & the corners of your mouth... cheeks... nostrils... eyes... eyebrows... forehead..
Stay in this position for some more time. Whenever you wish, get up. For that first turn to left side for few seconds then slowly sit up. You'll feel fresh, energetic & rejuvenated for the whole day.
Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna's Yogashaastra Studio. A popular studio that helps you find natural solutions for complete health and detoxification.