Qigong breathing, or Pranayama breathing, focuses on circular breathing that starts in the belly and is done in a way that is harmonious with nature. Based on Taoist methods, this type of breathing focuses on relaxing and can be done while sitting or while doing the Supreme Science Qigong exercise sets.
Pranayama Breathing: Chest or Belly?
Without thinking, we naturally resort to breathing from our chests. Qigong breathing relies on the diaphragm – the large muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity – to inflate the lungs and provide oxygen to all parts of the body.
Mastering the art of belly breathing is a basic skill that has to be mastered before tackling any other Qigong exercises.
What Are The Benefits Of Pranayama Belly Breathing?
Pranayama Belly breathing has multiple benefits over regular chest breathing.
Here are the most well-known benefits of this training:
- A feeling of being grounded and energized
- Relaxed neck, shoulders, and arms – areas that usually carry tension.
- The increased flow of blood and energy to, and in your internal organs.
- Massages internal organs, toning them and helping them to function better.
- Increases the blood supply to internal organs, delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients.
A Basic Introduction To Pranayama Breathing – Belly Breathing Flow
Before you begin: Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. Set aside some time so that you don’t feel rushed or under pressure. If possible, breathe through your nostrils only. If this won’t work for you, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If this is also impossible, you can Inhale and exhale through your mouth, though this is not ideal.
As you breathe in, feel the air come in through your nostrils, down your windpipe, and into your lungs all the way to your belly.
You can visualize the path your breath is following if this will help you. Allow your abdominal muscles to expand outwards to make room for your lungs to fill to capacity.
To breathe out, allow your abdominal muscles to return to their original position, relaxing them as much as possible. Avoid using muscle-strength to move your chest as you breathe. There should be very little feeling or a sense of air movement in your upper torso.
Finding Your Lower Belly: This is the section between your belly-button and the top of your pubic hair. Put your hands on this section to help you feel which area you’re aiming for. Try breath that only this section moves. It will take practice to isolate just the right place. Avoid the feeling of strain in any other part of your body.
Moving Up To Your Middle Belly: Once you’re comfortable moving the lower belly, you can move on to finding the middle belly. This is the area between your belly button your diaphragm. Again – use your hands to feel when you’ve isolated the right part of your abdomen. Practice breathing in such a way that only that section moves.
Conquering The Upper Belly: Now you can turn your attention to the area between your diaphragm and your solar plexus.
Your solar plexus is located roughly in the center of your torso, above your navel. Visualize your diaphragm moving downward as you breathe in and upward as you breathe out. This will make sure that the air is getting right to the top of your lungs – a part which is often neglected.
Lay your hands over your entire abdomen and see if you can locate and breathe using each individual section. Then allow yourself to belly-breathe with all three sections moving together.
Tips For Effective Pranayama Breathing
Breathe Smooth, Deep And Slow
Without straining, focus on making each breath smooth and deep with a slow transition to the next breath. This will allow your following breath to follow the same pattern. This allows your body time to take as much oxygen from each lungful of air as possible.
Quick, jerky breathing will lead to quicker, jerky breaths and that means poor oxygen exchange. Practicing with a straw daily will help you become aware of your breathing habits.
Breathe Out As Much As You Can
Exhaling clears out carbon dioxide which causes mental fuzz, sluggishness, and increased stress. The more you breathe out, the more space you make for oxygen-rich air.
Try breathing out a little more than you breathe in. Practically you can do this by exhaling for a second or two longer than what you inhale.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Work toward no pauses between smoothly inhaling and exhaling.
Tongue Tip To Teeth
Throughout your breathing exercises, focus on keeping the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth somewhere behind your teeth. (Think of saying ‘le’ as in ‘leg.’) This both stimulates and balances the acupuncture meridians of the body.
Aim For 70% Breaths
One of the key aims of Pranayama breathing is to allow your body to relax. If you are constantly pushing your body to breathe at 100%, you will be putting a strain on it which brings tension.
Pranayama Breathing – Foundational Skill For All Qigong Movement
Mastering the basics of Pranayama breathing is the first step toward flowing in all the Qigong exercises movements and unlocking all the benefits of Qigong for your body. You can practice your breathing anywhere, anytime, and you don’t need any special equipment.
Remember, each time you practice, you will be refining the neuromuscular pathways and taking a step closer to Pranayama breathing becoming a natural way of life.
If you’d like further guidance, Supreme Science Qigong Center has several Breath Empowerment videos that will help you master your breathwork.