What do you need the most at this very moment?
A big fat bonus? A better education? A lasting relationship?
Yeah, it’s the end of the year and time for making wishes. But none of the above needs is as important as one blessing you possess at every moment, breathing.
From the moment you started reading this blog post, it has been 20 seconds. If you were unable to breathe for 20 seconds, you would have given up all you own to breathe again, wouldn’t you? In another minute, you would have lost consciousness. Brain death would follow in another 2-3mins and your life would be at an end.
Breathing is the very measure of our life. Life enters us with our first inhalation and leaves us with our final exhalation. It is truly our life force. Yet it is so natural and automatic that most people take it for granted and have never given it a second thought.
This seemingly simple process is far more than a movement of air. It provides the oxygen needed by every cell of your body, manifests the natural flow of energy in your body, and is the key to balance, concentration and wisdom. Think about the practice of Yoga, Taichi, and Aikido: the emphasis on the role of breathing is never enough.
It is also in your breathing that you find the power of your voice. The more air you breathe in, the more powerful your voice will be, because after all your voice is the result of the vibration powered by the air going-out. The quality of your voice will never exceed the quality of your breath.
Modern work and life stresses have made us lost the ability to breathe fully. Most people are shallow breathers and only use one third of their lung capacity. To them, maybe including you, breathing is only a subsistence need. As a result, their voice is weak, thin, and lack of resonance.
To have a richer, fuller and stronger voice, you must improve the quality of your breath, i.e. a deep, full and relaxed breath. It is achieved when you breathe with the support of your diaphragm.
We were all born with the ability to breathe deeply and fully. Take a look at how babies breathe. Their abdomen area rises and falls with every breath they take. It is simply adorable. As we grow up, we lost touch with the use of our diaphragm and have ended up with shallow breathing. You can regain that ability to breathe with the support of your diaphragm. It was once a natural part of you. It always reminds me of the phrase, returning to innocence, or rather returning to the original nature, like its more to the point Chinese counterpart, 返璞归真(fan pu gui zhen).
To get to know as well as activate your diaphragm, two simple exercises you can start with are as follows:
① Yawning. When you yawn, you are using your diaphragm. Yawn more while no one notices you. lol
② Place a bean bag or other small object on your belly above your navel while you lie down. Try to use your breath to make the bean bag rise and fall. Avoid moving your back up and down. After some time, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing while standing and watch the movement of your belly area. Make sure your shoulders are not lifted up.
“Learning starts from awareness.” From now on, remind yourself of diaphragmatic breathing every time you remember. With awareness and practice, it will become part of you.