CHAPTER VIII: How to Breathe
Volumes have been written upon the value of breathing exercises. Many exaggerated statements have been made as to what can be accomplished through deep breathing. Nevertheless, it must be definitely understood that full, deep breaths, which expand the lungs to their fullest capacity, and are taken at frequent intervals, are of great value.
Almost any vigorous exercise will enforce deep breathing, and there is no question as to the benefit of the involuntary or spontaneous inhalation and exhalation thus induced. Running and wrestling are types of very vigorous athletic exercises that will compel one to breathe deeply and fully, and will insure a full lung development without special breathing exercises. And this is more especially true if much exercise of this character is taken regularly, day after day, all the year round.
But where the occupation and surroundings are such that one cannot indulge in such active pastimes, or where the time for such exercises is necessarily limited,
Frequent voluntary deep-breathing exercises can be highly commended.
About the best example of the proper use of the diaphragm and the natural movement of the abdominal and dorsal region in correct breathing is illustrated in a small child. In nearly all cases an active healthy child will breathe properly, and by studying the movement of his abdomen in both standing and reclining positions you will find that as the breath is inhaled the abdominal region will expand. When the breath is exhaled this part of the body will contract or be drawn inward. This demonstrates very conclusively that the movement or expansion of the body in natural breathing is abdominal, and that the bony framework of the chest should not be involved except when taking full deep breaths, or when breathing hard from the effects of very vigorous exercise.
It is not at all necessary to go through a complicated system in order to learn proper methods of breathing, since this is comparatively simple if you are willing to make persistent efforts day after day until you are fittingly rewarded. If you simply acquire the habit of drawing in a deep full breath, at frequent intervals during the day, expanding first in the abdominal region, you will soon be able to breathe properly. A correct position of the body is very important, for if you have the proper erect posture, and have no constricting clothing about the waist and abdominal region, you will almost instinctively be inclined to breathe diaphragmatically, or abdominally, as we call it. Furthermore, when going out in the open air you will find as a result of this practice that you are unconsciously expanding in the proper manner as suggested. In fact, you will be more inclined to breathe freely and deeply at all times if a proper position is maintained. It is hardly necessary to mention the necessity for breathing pure air, and especially when taking deep-breathing exercises, if you wish the very greatest results. Take these deep breaths when in the open air, or else before an open window. It is a good plan, for instance, when rising in the morning to stand before an open window and inhale perhaps a dozen full, complete breaths. This will help greatly to brush the cobwebs from your brain and brighten you up for the day's duties and responsibilities.
All of these suggestions apply with equal force to both sexes. Because of the fashions of dress usually in vogue the breathing of women is much more restricted than that of men. Furthermore, they are generally
less inclined to athletic pursuits involving exercise which compels deep breathing.
The method of breathing recommended for women is absolutely identical with that suggested for men. It is a curious fact that until recent years the world generally, the medical profession included, held the opinion that there is a fundamental difference between men and women in breathing. Observation of the natural breathing of boys and girls would soon prove the absurdity of this opinion. Owing to the universal use of the corset, thoracic breathing, or chest breathing, the result of the artificial constriction of the body at and below the waist line, appeared to be the natural method of breathing for women, whereas diaphragmatic breathing was recognized as proper and natural for men. Only in recent years have medical authorities recognized that this difference was really due only to artificial methods of dress and that natural breathing in women and men is absolutely the same. Recent fashions have permitted the enlargement of the waist line in women, but unfortunately there is still too much constriction of this important part of the body. When the world becomes more truly civilized and our methods of dress are based upon common sense and an intelligent understanding of the physical requirements of the body, we may hope that the dress of women will be such as to permit entire freedom in the matter of breathing, and the easy expansion of the body at the waist line. Some day women will learn the value of suspending skirts, stockings, etc., from the shoulders instead of relying upon the restriction at the waist as a means of support.
If you wish to ascertain more exactly whether or not your breathing is entirely satisfactory, stand up, take a deep breath, and observe not only the expansion in the region of the stomach and abdomen but also at the sides and in the back. If you place the palms of your hands upon the lower ribs in the back, just above the waist line, you should feel the expansion of the body in this part pressing upward through the action of the diaphragm as a deep breath is inhaled. Also by pressing the hands upon the lower ribs at the sides, just above the waist line, you will feel the lateral expansion in this region at the same time that the expansion is noted in the front of the body. You will therefore realize that there should be an expansion of the lower ribs at the back and at the sides along with the expansion in the region of the stomach and abdomen. Of course, when a very full breath is taken there will also be an expansion of the chest following the filling up of the lower part of the lungs.
Vitality Supreme - Table of Contents
Charles Atlas Course
Science of Breath