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Thread: Chest Breathing vs. 'Abdomen' breathing

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    SW Ohio

    Chest Breathing vs. 'Abdomen' breathing

    There are several meditation resources as well as general health resources that say we should try to breathe into our abdomen as opposed to our chest because we get more oxygen that way. However I am wondering if this is really the case for everyone, because I have found (after not only trying it for meditation but also being in choir for 6 years where we have to breathe to the abdomen) that I don't get nearly enough oxygen if I'm not breathing into my chest. In fact, even if I try taking deeper breaths, I sometimes end up light-headed and always out of breath if I try doing in my abdomen.

    Do people here generally try to breathe one way or the other? Do you think that for meditation one should attempt abdomen breathing even if it's not the most comfortable way?

    Just curious, sorry if this post is totally pointless....
    Rœnania tën an aifà, dyn bagairim u.
    Jë bodhar else fethäl lewa sel, senitho aioch.
    Naem Lasto fedhau bachor, senigal ir iul sel.
    Naem Lasto yu, seniorag ir pädu sel.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    My Cupboard in Afghanistan
    Everyone's body is different. If chest breathing works best for you, then roll with that. Since you've been in choir before, I'm pretty sure you already know this but I'll quote it for information's sake anyway:

    There are three main kinds of breathing:–

    • Chest Breathing
    • Belly Breathing (unsupported diaphragm)
    • Diaphragmatic Breathing (properly supported)

    Chest Breathing (also known as Thoracic Breathing)

    Breathing with the upper chest is the most effortful and least productive of the three. The chest and neck muscles lift the breast-bone and upper ribs. As the breast-bone comes up, it also comes forward.
    This inflates the upper lobes of the lungs. Because they are small, only a small volume of air is drawn in. This means rapid, short breaths. The effort involved is considerable. It is also a drag on the head, neck and shoulders so that these have to be braced in order to provide an Archimedean point from which the upper chest can be lifted.
    This type of breathing is characteristic of anyone who is struggling for breath.

    The Diaphragm

    When the dome-shaped diaphragm muscle tightens to draw air into the lungs, it flattens. This can happen in one of two ways:

    1. the top of the dome comes down but its edges are fixed, (un-supported diaphragmatic breathing)
    2. the dome also lifts the ribs as its edges come up. (supported diaphragmatic breathing)

    Belly Breathing (unsupported diaphragm)

    This is usual but not very effective. The lower ribs don’t move much. This is for two reasons. Firstly, because the diaphragm isn’t lifting them. Secondly, because over-tight muscles are stopping the ribs from moving. Instead, the top of the dome, moving down, creates space for the lungs to expand into.
    This method of breathing also pushes down on the abdominal organs. They have to go somewhere. As a result, they end up bellying out in front — a characteristic of unsupported diaphragmatic breathing. The fact that many people breathe in this way is the main reason why a ‘beer-belly’, or ‘middle-aged spread’, is so frequent even in people who are not over-weight, don’t drink beer and are not yet middle-aged!
    This piston-like action is often believed to be the proper action of the diaphragm. In fact, it’s only one part of the story. The best use of the diaphragm is only possible when it is getting its proper support, as we shall now see.

    Diaphragmatic Breathing (properly supported)

    The dome-shaped diaphragm muscle is attached by its edges to the lowest ribs, the costal arch, the base of the breast-bone and (at the back) to the front of the lumbar spine.
    In supported diaphragmatic breathing, because the abdominal organs are supported in place, the top of the diaphragm cannot come down as much as it does in unsupported diaphragmatic breathing. (We will look later at what provides this support).
    This support provides the “Archimedean point” enabling the diaphragm to lift the lower ribs. (These lower ribs are the ones which join together in front to form the costal arch instead of attaching directly to the breast-bone).
    Now, the way these ribs are jointed to the spine means that, as they come up, they must also come out sideways (not forwards as the upper ribs do). To picture the movement of one of these ribs, imagine starting to lift the handle of a bucket from its rest position, where it lies against the side of the bucket; imagine lifting it up-and-out sideways. The movement of the rib is just like this. The result of all the lower ribs moving together in this way is a big sideways expansion: an expansion of one’s back just as much as it is an expansion of one’s lower chest. This inflates the large lower lobes of the lungs very considerably.
    Since a very large volume of air flows in and out of the lungs, one naturally breathes much more slowly this way. This all makes for effortless breathing. Another advantage is that, while upper chest breathing creates a downward drag on the head and neck, this support for the diaphragm actually acts as a hydraulic lift, buoying one up and greatly reducing the effort of maintaining an erect posture.
    "Abdominal Breathing" is a fairly misleading term that most frequently leads to the above-described "Belly Breathing", when what is actually being recommended is "Diaphragmatic Breathing". My advice is to check to see is you've been misled into Belly Breathing when perhaps you naturally were already breathing properly with your diaphragm, as you were probably taught to in choir.
    ~ Cheers! ~

    Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy & good with ketchup.

    Stop your ceaseless, senseless babble! If you will not dig deeper than your shallow perceptions, then I shall put this shovel to better use and open your mind the hard way. *waves shovel threateningly*

    The worm in the apple is just extra protein: shut up and eat it.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    I simply find it more peaceful to breath deep on the inside - it makes you feel the air flowing through your body more so that it has a warm tickly feeling.

    This is the way it should be. with shallowing breathing, there is the tendency to not go deep enough to access higher mental states

    deep breathing also stops the flow of thoughts and oxygenates the brain for deeper and powerful mental meditation

  4. #4
    herbal_legends Guest
    I understand what you mean. I was also in choir :D

    Anyways, what I usually do is I breathe deep then take a shallow breathe and repeat over and over so that I don't pass out LOL! I haven't mastered the deep breathing only technique but I'm working on step at a time.



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