Medical Qi Gong Healing and Therapy

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Diaphragmatic Breathing

Taking a full breath is vital to good health. The diaphragm is a large muscle that attaches to the ribs and vertebrae just above the abdominal cavity. On inhalation, the diaphragm descends into the abdominal cavity creating a vacuum in the lungs. This type of breathing allows for maximum use of the lung’s surface area. Oxygen, a vital nutrient necessary for life, is absorbed on inhalation and carbon dioxide is excreted on exhalation as a waste product which helps to maintain the bloods delicate acid/base balance. Diaphragmatic breathing also acts as a pump for the lymphatic system. As the diaphragm descends into the abdominal cavity, it gently massages the internal organs below the diaphragm squeezing lymph into the vena cava. The heart also sits on top of and is connected to the diaphragm via the fibrous tissue of the pericardium. This has a positive effect on the immune and circulatory systems. The breath is an integral part of many spiritual practices including yoga, chi gong, and many forms of meditation. The breath is the only function in the body that operates either voluntarily or involuntarily. For example we can increase our rate of breathing or hold our breath, or if you are not paying attention to your breath your autonomic nervous system automatically tells your body to breathe. On the contrary, other bodily functions such as your heart beat or digestive system cannot be controlled at will. This is important because working with your breath will affect both the conscious and subconscious mind since it is controlled by both. Breath-work is used by many traditions as a means to alter consciousness. Becoming conscious of your breath will give you a tool to help regulate stress and emotions. When you experience a heightened stress response, your breath will generally become shallow and rapid. By changing the rate and depth at which you are breathing, you will change your response to a stressful or highly charged emotional situation.


Practice:

1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. If you chose to sit, make sure that your back is straight, preferably not leaning against the back of your chair and feet are on the ground. If you tend to fall asleep while lying down, practice your breathing exercises in the sitting position.

2. Once you have found a comfortable position, close your eyes and observe your breath. Notice if you are breathing primarily into your chest, abdomen, or both. If you are a chest breather you will feel expansion only in the upper chest as you inhale. If you are breathing into your abdomen, you feel expansion at the belly button as you inhale. If you feel expansion first in the abdomen and then into the chest, then you are already breathing properly.

3. Abdominal Expansion – Focus your attention on your spot about two inches below your belly button. As you inhale, feel as if you are breathing into that area. As you inhale your abdomen should expand. As your diaphragm pushes down, your belly will expand outward. Practice this for several minutes.

4. Chest Expansion – Focus your attention on the center of the sternum bone. As you inhale, breathe into the chest expanding the rib cage. Practice this for several minutes.

5. Full Diaphragmatic Breath – Return your attention to a couple of inches below the belly button. Resume breathing into the lower abdomen. As the lower abdomen expands and becomes “full” then expand the ribcage. This step links abdominal expansion and chest expansion.

 

 
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Testimonial

...kind words
Margit, I would have never thought that just learning how to breathe will help me with my performance anxiety, but it did - cant wait for what else you will teach me!

...Angela W. (15 yr pianist)