If you are like most people, you are probably unaware of the extent to which the way you inhale and exhale affects your energy level. But breathing has long been considered essential to the exercises of the East. For instance, Yoga teachings include many different ways of breathing. One is "Bhastrika," known in English as "breathing of fire," whose aim is to stimulate the fundamental "Kundalini" energy. Likewise, Zen has its technique of "Su Soku Kan" (Japanese; "meditating while counting the number of breaths taken").
Our breathing changes in keeping with our emotions such as joy, anger, or sorrow. You breathe differently when you are laughing or crying. It's not possible to breathe the same way while crying, as while laughing. If you become too nervous before an exam, say, or a game, and your breathing is influenced, you are not likely to get a good result. Breathing can affect the emotional and the mental state. Many breathing methods are now promoted that seek to control feelings, mind activities, and even vital energy.
In the human body, only breathing is controlled, under normal conditions, by both voluntary and involuntary nerves. This is one of the reasons why the involuntary nerves can be consciously controlled by controlling breathing. After all, breathing can become a bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Improved breathing methods are effective in improving blood circulation. Proper breathing promotes the flow back through your veins and the circulation of blood through the whole body, by changing abdominal pressure. Practicing breathing is an important element of qigong training, but it is also important not to try too hard and not to try to do too much too soon.
The following is the breathing method that I recommend as most effective, because I still find it as useful as I did when I first tried it many years ago.
The Raku-raku method of deep breathing
1. Exhale slowly with your mouth open, as if you were yawning.
3. Exhale slowly through rounded lips, as if you were blowing out a candle.
5. Exhale the remaining air from your lungs with three short, quick breaths, through rounded lips.
6. Inhale naturally. I call this the "Raku-raku" deep breathing method (Raku-raku means "easily" in Japanese).
This breathing exercise can be repeated very easily, as many times as you wish. When you exhale with rounded lips, positive pressure occurs just inside the airways. The lungs lie deep inside the body and are not easily cleansed by ordinary breathing. The amount of air which is always left inside the lungs is known, in respiratory physiology, as "residual volume." By exhaling three times, as mentioned above, you can clear away this residual volume.
When you master this breathing method, you will be able to breathe abdominally without effort. Give this method a try sometime, particularly when you are feeling particularly stressed. It will make you feel calm and refreshed.
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