The natural breathing

By observing the breathing of a resting baby, anyone can notice that it is the belly that moves: the abdomen inflates and rises during inhalation and retracts during exhalation. Unforced breathing (also called unconscious, automatic, or silent) is the mechanism that ensures a constant airflow without difficulty and without conscious thought. This spontaneous abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing in babies gradually disappears with age.

The transition to thoracic breathing

As we grow older and face the stresses of daily life, knots form, natural breathing fades, and this leads to antiphysiological abdominal movements and an accelerated breathing rate. The deep, spontaneous breathing of early childhood gradually gives way to thoracic breathing. Thoracic breathing involves the chest inflating and the shoulders lifting during inhalation.

The consequences of a superficial breathing

These movements reduce respiratory amplitude because the space available for the lungs is more restricted, typically leading to faster breathing to compensate for the deficit. The amount of air inhaled decreases by half. Additionally, tension or tightness in the diaphragm can directly impact the proper functioning of the nervous systems that utilize this pathway. For instance, the sympathetic nervous system activates the body in response to stress, causing an increase in heart rate and breathing rate, which can even lead to feelings of oppression or anxiety. Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system calms the body and restores balance.

The Importance of slow and deep Breathing

Conversely, slow and deep breathing activates the diaphragm, causing the abdomen to move in rhythm with the breath all the way to the bottom of the lungs. In this configuration, the parasympathetic system dominates, neutralizing the anxiety-inducing effects of the sympathetic system. With each exhalation, the body’s tensions release, as if they were waiting for this pathway to open. This is one of the gateways to meditation and transcendental states. Fear, anger, and unnecessary desires fade away under the softness of this breath, which many consider sacred.

This is why the science of breath is an integral part of yoga. Try this breathing exercise to live in harmony with daily life. It is the basic breathing technique to promote sleep, relaxation, and positive emotions