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Proper Breathing
By Bob Hubbard

The idea of a guide to breathing seems rather strange to some. After all, we all do it automatically. But, like everything else, there is a right way to breath to maximize its benefit to you.

The most common breathing uses only the top half of our lungs. This leaves the bottom portion unused and tends to hinder the fullest absorption of oxygen due to the retention of stale air. This stale air and poor use of our lung capacity effects every organ in our bodies. Every day we take thousands of breaths but rarely will we think about how to improve the process.

Proper deep breathing combined with meditation can reduce stress, expand your consciousness, deepen insights and help create inner peace. Even without meditation, properly breathing can help keep you alert and energized to face the trials of the day.

We enter this world in a soft, relaxed state, gradually growing harder as we age. As we age, we forget how to breathe at our full capacity, taking shallower and shallower breaths. This should be a concern.

One of the first things the singer and musician learn is proper breath control. Body builders and weight training includes proper breathing instruction.

Tai chi, Yoga and other meditative practices require you to become attuned to your breathing at an early stage. In order to bet the maximum from these studies, it is vitally important that the body and the mind receive sufficient oxygen. The act of breathing itself is important for proper bodily function. It massages the internal organs and moves both nutrients and wastes. From a meditative perspective, focusing on proper breathing unclutters your mind, and helps you to relax. How often have you had trouble sleeping and heard "focus on your breathing" or "breath slow and count your breaths"?

So, breathing right is important. But, how do you do it?

In order to understand the right way to breath, you must also know the wrong ways. You want to avoid what are called "Clavicle" and "Thoracic" breathing. In "Clavicle breathing", the abdomen is sucked in and the shoulders and collarbone are raised. It is the shallowest type giving the least benefit. Expanding the rib muscles does “Thoracic breathing” which is where the stomach is often sucked in but the chest rises and falls..

Proper breathing is more than simply "breath in, breath out". Proper breathing involves the abdomen, and four distinct stages: Inhalation, retention, exhalation and pause.

Inhalation
Never force yourself to inhale to the point where you feel so full you might burst. A common mistake, you should never try to force it beyond comfortable fullness. Go about 2/3's full. Don't try to suck in all the air you can as fast as you can. Do it at a slow and steady pace for maximum effect. Breath with your abdomen. To get the feel for this, while wearing loose clothing, lie on your back. Place your hand on the upper abdomen, where the diaphragm is located, approximately just under your rib line. Breathe in and out slowly. The abdomen should expand outward as you inhale and contract as you exhale.

Retention
A common mistake is to breath in and out as fast as you can. This can cause you to become lightheaded, and you get minimal effectiveness of the air. Instead, after breathing in about 2/3 of a lungful of air, hold it for about 3-4 seconds. This allows for proper exchange of oxygen and toxins through the cell walls, and can slow down your heartbeat and reduce blood pressure. Proper retention has many therapeutic benefits to the body.

Exhalation
Don't try to force the air out. Empty from the top to the bottom, in a relaxed manner.

Pause
When the lungs are completely empty, pause for a few seconds. This will allow the abdominal wall and diaphragm to relax so that they may operate at the best of their ability on the next breath.

Proper deep breathing can reduce stress, expand your mind, increase your endurance and energy, and keep you alert. Shallow or incorrect breathing can leave you clouded, tired and lethargic. Regardless of your activity, remember to breath. Be aware of how you are breathing, and focus on a slow deep relaxed breath. You'll find you will be more effective in your daily activities.

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Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts sites MartialTalk.com and KenpoTalk.com. He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at kaith@martialtalk.com. More of Bob's articles can be found at rustaz.net. Please contact Bob if you would like him to review your martial arts product.