The Art of Breathing

Tadao Ogura, M.D.


I.  Introduction

One of the givens of human life is breathing. We must breathe to stay alive; if we do not breathe, we die. We take our first breath when we are born and come out into the world, but no one teaches us how to take this first breath. Breathing is natural and spontaneous.

Since we all breathe spontaneously, without conscious thought or effort, it seems inconceivable that we should have to "learn to breathe" or that we can actually benefit from learning how to do something that we "all know how to do."  

But if breathing was intended to be completely "natural" and automatic, we would not have the ability to control it. Actually, no other animal has the ability to consciously control their breathing. We also have little to no control over the circulation of our blood or our digestive functions, which are maintained by "natural control mechanisms." Why, then, do we, and only we humans, have the ability to consciously control our breathing?  

In the evolutionary processes of mammals, we humans seem to have developed the ability to control more and more of our bodily functions. We seem to have gained almost complete control over our breathing and even some control over our circulatory and digestive functions, as illustrated by some or the East Indian Yogi. Obviously, we humans are meant to gain more freedom from our built-in "natural control mechanisms" to transcend our "natural limitations." For example, all singers must learn to control their breathing to regulate the quality and reach of their voices and archers and sharpshooters must also learn to control their breathing in order to achieve a steady aim.  

But control of breathing has advantages that go beyond being able to sing better or aim straighter. From very ancient times on, various forms of breathing techniques have been used for various reasons such as to improve physical and mental health, to generate special mental and physical power, and even to cure diseases. These techniques have been developed and passed down from generation to generation by the Taoists of ancient China, by the Yogi of ancient India, and the Zen Buddhists of ancient Japan.  

Although many of the techniques of breathing are linked to some Eastern religions or martial arts, modern scientists and physicians have begun to realize the benefits that can be actualized through controlled breathing exercises. There have even been some scientific experiments conducted on controlled breathing that measures the actual physical effects of the exercises over time. Nevertheless, the majority of people in the United States remain ignorant of the amazing benefits of controlled breathing. Even those few who believe in the practice often perform the techniques incorrectly and "give up" before the benefits are actualized.  

In this book, I describe a few of the breathing techniques I believe to be the most effective among all the different methods that have been developed in the past. The exercises are outlined in step-by-step instructions so you can easily develop your own Controlled Breathing routine. Just follow the directions, practice the correct technique, and stick with your routine you will be amazed at the effects.

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