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270Diaphragmatic breathing

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Mar 21, 2004
      Diaphragmatic breathing:

      Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the most important foundation
      practices for meditation.

      When the diaphragm muscle contracts, it pulls the bottom of the lungs
      downward, causing them to fill, while the ribs flare outward to the
      sides. The chest and abdominal muscles are not used in diaphragmatic
      breathing. Conscious diaphragmatic breathing is extremely relaxing to
      the autonomic nervous system and is essential preparation for deep

      The diaphragm is a huge muscle that rests horizontally across the base
      of the rib cage. Imagine an oval shaped dinner plate, turned upside
      down, and inside your lower rib cage. The diaphragm is connected in
      the front, along the sides of your lower ribs, and also along the

      On inhalation, the diaphragm muscle contracts, and pulls downward,
      such that the ribs flare out slightly, and pulls the bottom of the
      lungs downward to bring in air. On exhalation, this releases and the
      air goes out. With deep diaphragmatic breathing, the space just below
      the breast bone, at the upper abdomen pushes in slightly so as to
      exhale more completely.

      When the diaphragm is used for breathing, there is little motion in
      the lower abdomen, and the chest remains still. However, we lead
      stress-filled lives, and learn bad breathing habits, using the abdomen
      and the chest. This creates further tension that leaves us in a
      vicious cycle of mental chatter driving bad breathing and physical
      tightness, and the bad breathing, in turn, causing trouble to the

      It is important to note that modern medicine has finally acknowledged
      what the yogis have known for thousands of years, that the breath is
      intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system and the mind.
      Even some hospitals and medical establishments are now willing to
      train people in breath regulation.

      We need to consciously practice diaphragmatic breathing. This involves
      a retraining program, and while another person can teach us how to do
      it, it is actually a self-training program. Nobody can do the actual
      awareness and training for you.

      The benefits of learning and practicing diaphragmatic breathing are
      immense. Without it, it is unlikely that one will progress in
      meditation as a spiritual pursuit.