The Art of Breathing

Tadao Ogura, M.D.


III. "Ordinary" Versus "Controlled" Breathing

Before we begin to discuss what Controlled Breathing is all about, we should have some understanding of our "normal" or "ordinary" breathing process.  

Most people breathe with what is called "apical breathing" or "chest breathing." In these types of breathing, the diaphragm between the chest the abdominal cavities do not move much, and the ventilation of the air is carried out only in the tips or the upper parts of the lungs. Thus, this is an extremely inefficient use of the lungs for oxygen exchange.  

Try sitting quietly and breathe "naturally." Now place your palm on your chest. Does your chest rise and fall when you breathe? If so, you are "chest breathing." Now place your palm on your abdomen. Do you feel your abdomen rising and falling? If the movement of your abdomen is only slight, you are in the majority. Now try to breathe in as deeply as you can. Did you inhale through your mouth as well as with your nose? If so, you are not really breathing properly.  

Despite all this, we are all born with the knowledge of how to breathe properly. If you watch babies breathe, you will be able to see their abdomen rise and fall, and they inhale through their nostrils. Why, then, do so few of us breathe properly as adults?

The answer is that we have developed bad breathing habits, just as we have developed bad habits in other aspects of our lives. These "bad habits" usually develop in parallel to "mental habits" which we develop as we become more and more "head-oriented" or "cerebral." In other words, the more we move our focus away from our "guts" up to our "heads," our breathing also moves from the abdomen upward to the chest.  

In order to break these habits, we must practice the "proper" way to breathe. The Controlled Breathing exercises described in this book will help you regain your true, natural breathing so that you will be healthier in mind, body and spirit.

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