Sit comfortably with Your back straight. Breathe in deep and allow Your belly to swell like a pot. Breathe out slowly and completely and allow Your belly to cave in. This is the Diaphragmatic or Abdominal or Belly Breathing, the Natural Breathing suited to the design of Your respiratory system.
Diaphragm is a large curved muscle separating the lungs from the abdomen. It usually does about 80% of the work of breathing. Normally when the Diaphragm lowers, the Lungs expand inhaling Oxygen and the abdomen pushes out. When the diaphragm raises, the abdomen moves in and the lungs relax and empty exhaling Carbon dioxide. Diaphragmatic breathing helps one to breathe more easily and efficiently with less energy. It helps to get stale trapped air out of the lungs. It also helps to strengthen the Diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
Chest or Shallow breathing is an inefficient way of breathing compared to the natural belly breathing. Chest breathing creates unnecessary tension in one's body and mind. In Chest breathing the diaphragm stays flat and one uses the accessory muscles in the upper chest, neck and along the ribs. Using these muscles is less effective than using the diaphragm because it takes more energy and this requires more oxygen.
Since meditation is a process wherein one creates deep relaxation in one's body and mind, it is natural to know that deep belly breathing is the first requirement for being in meditation.
Let us find out how You are breathing. Keep one hand one the chest and one hand on the abdomen, while You are breathing. If You find the hand on the chest moving and the hand on the abdomen not moving at all, You are doing Shallow or Chest Breathing. To learn Diaphragmatic Breathing is very easy.
Lie on a mat, flat on the back. Do not keep any pillow for Your head. when You are flat on the back, the chest, neck and shoulders relax fully and thus You will be breathing deep into the belly. This is the reason You get so restful during sleep and wake up fully refreshed. Keep one hand on the chest and one hand on the abdomen. Observe their movements while You are breathing deep into the belly. You will find that the hand on the chest is not moving at all, whereas the hand on the abdomen is going up when You are breathing in and going down when You are breathing out.
Continue breathing this way for five minutes with Your mind observing the breath and belly movement. Bring Your mind back to Your breath and belly movement, every time You find Your attention drifting away. This is mindful breathing wherein You align Your mind with Your body and breath, discovering the perfect unity of Your body, breath and mind. After mindfully breathing for five minutes, now sit up straight with the same mindfulness and continue this Deep belly breathing. If You find yourself resorting to chest breathing due to habit, relax Your chest, neck and shoulders fully and You will be able to resume Diaphragmatic breathing while sitting.
By regular practice daily, You will master diaphragmatic breathing and it will become Your natural way of breathing by habit, just as the chest or shallow breathing became Your unnatural way of breathing by habit.
By doing diaphragmatic breathing, You are naturally activating the Root, Sacral, Navel and Solar centers, the four important Spiritual Centers that connect Your spinal column to the Kundalini Energy at the base of the Spine. You are also firmly grounded to Mother Earth whose subtle energies also You draw upon for Your health & well-being. By doing diaphragmatic breathing, You are also massaging all the organs in Your abdomen, increasing blood circulation to them thus keeping them in good health. Parasympathetic nervous system is activated during diaphragmatic breathing, which creates a overall relaxation in body & mind.
Shallow or chest breathing deactivates the the Root, Sacral, Navel and Solar centers and thus You are cut off from the Kundalini Energy. You are also cut off from the subtle energies from Mother Earth as You are not properly grounded. There is no massaging of the abdominal organs resulting in poor blood circulation to them. Thus You are depriving yourself of good health & well-being, if You persist in chest breathing. Sympathetic nervous system is activated during chest breathing, which creates a overall tension in body & mind.
Having known that diaphragmatic breathing is the natural breathing suited to the design of Your respiratory system and also its effortlessness & immense benefits compared to the unnatural & laborious chest breathing, naturally You will become mindful or aware of how You are breathing every now & then, till You master diaphragmatic breathing. Eventually this natural breathing will become Your habit, as it should be. After achieving this mastery, You can practice Mindful Breathing whenever You find time and experience the Perfect Unity of Body, Breath & Mind. This is a simple meditation You can practice anytime anywhere. This simple meditation is the First Step on Your journey to Complete Self-Realization & Self-Mastery.