The second step, breathing with the diaphragm (often called abdominal breathing), is not difficult if you already allow your stomach to expand freely when you breathe. If not, you will need to practice this step until it becomes natural to you. This step massages all the lower organs in the body and relaxes the muscles at the same time. It expands the lower part of the lungs. By using the diaphragm consciously to breathe slowly, it becomes more elastic and powerful with practice. You can do this standing, sitting or lying on your back. Beginners usually find this easier lying down and relaxing a little before beginning. Women with children will recall the breathing techniques at childbirth and automatically understand the concept of what deep and full means. The diaphragm is like a flexible disc in the center of your body. If you feel your ribcage and follow the area directly under it, you will be where this muscle functions. Look at this simple illustration (below) of the largest muscle in your body, the diaphragm (it is the large shaded area): The diaphragm “is the great partition muscle that separates the chest and its contents from the abdomen and its contents. When at rest it presents a concave surface to the abdomen. The diaphragm as viewed from the abdomen would seem like the sky as viewed from the earth—the interior of an arched surface. Consequently, the side of the diaphragm toward the chest organs is like a protruding rounded surface—like a hill. When the diaphragm is brought into use the hill formation is lowered and the diaphragm presses upon the abdominal organs and forces out the abdomen.”—Yogi Ramacharaka If you are a scientist, think about that statement just quoted here. Read into it from a scientific standpoint. You might discover something about how the earth also functions. Learning how to breathe using the diaphragm muscle is one of the most important lessons in all of these Breath series. If you at least know how to use this miraculous part of your body, everything else will be much easier for you. To be powerful, speakers and singers must know how to use this muscle.
HOW TO USE THE DIAPHRAGM MUSCLE
- Lie on your back with your legs slightly apart, or sit in a chair with the soles of your feet on the floor, or sit on the floor with your legs crossed or as Eugenia does in the image below (sitting on her heels). The important thing is to be relaxed and comfortable. If you are lying down, lift your head and look down at your feet to see that your head is centered between your feet and in a straight line with the rest of your body, then rest your head. It is just as important to have the spine straight even when you are sitting in a chair as it is when you are lying on the floor.
- Relax your body and place the palms of your hands on the abdomen/stomach area with your fingers pointed toward your navel and solar plexus. Place your stretched out fingers, relaxed, on either side of your abdomen with the middle fingers at the navel. (After you have read through all of these pages, you can visualize one of the many suggestions given in this Breath series. Choose one that is easy. Most students seem to enjoy the big balloon image.) (Note: The solar plexus is like the solar light. Here is where the lunar realm is left to enter the fuller understanding of spiritual truths. This is a powerful area in the body that brings healing just from being aware of it.
- Inhale through the larynx and allow your breath to move directly into your abdomen, then feel this part of your body expand from the air filling it. Do not push your abdominal or stomach muscles out. Your abdomen expands only from the breath that is filling it (like a balloon). The slower you inhale now, the easier it will be to continue with the following steps.
- When you are ready to exhale, simply repeat the movement in your mind. Your abdomen and stomach, just like a balloon, will deflate from the air being expelled. Gently pull your abdomen in a little as you exhale. It can be helpful to use your fingers to follow your abdomen in and press slightly until you can feel your lungs are empty.
- Count how many seconds your inhalation takes, then count the same number of seconds for your exhalation. This will help you to do rhythmic breathing properly, and to watch your progress as you add more seconds to your breathing with practice.
- Tip: To see how your breath is working, place a couple of heavy books on your abdomen and then watch them rise and fall steadily as you inhale and exhale.
- Remember, you are only concentrating on the diaphragm-abdomen-stomach area of your body at this time. You have already mastered the larynx technique. Your shoulders and chest are completely relaxed and motionless at this step and do not move up or down. Do not lift your shoulders when you inhale with this technique.
- Practice this until you feel your abdomen expanding without any tension. When you can do this without thinking about it, continue to the next step of breathing with the ribcage (link below).
ABDOMINAL BREATH VISUALIZATIONS
- Imagine that your abdomen/stomach area is a large cup being filled with water.
- Imagine that your abdomen/stomach area is a balloon being filled with air, expanding slowly.
- Concentrate on your navel and imagine that your abdomen is being filled with energy that circulates from your groin to your hipbones and finally to your navel.