Proper Breathing

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Kaith Rustaz, May 20, 2007.

  1. Kaith Rustaz

    Kaith Rustaz New Member

    Proper Breathing
    By Bob Hubbard

    The idea of a guide to breathing seems rather strange to some. After all, we all do it automatically. But, like everything else, there is a right way to breath to maximize its benefit to you.

    The most common breathing uses only the top half of our lungs. This leaves the bottom portion unused and tends to hinder the fullest absorption of oxygen due to the retention of stale air. This stale air and poor use of our lung capacity effects every organ in our bodies. Every day we take thousands of breaths but rarely will we think about how to improve the process.

    Proper deep breathing combined with meditation can reduce stress, expand your consciousness, deepen insights and help create inner peace. Even without meditation, properly breathing can help keep you alert and energized to face the trials of the day.

    We enter this world in a soft, relaxed state, gradually growing harder as we age. As we age, we forget how to breathe at our full capacity, taking shallower and shallower breaths. This should be a concern.

    One of the first things the singer and musician learn is proper breath control. Body builders and weight training includes proper breathing instruction.

    Tai chi, Yoga and other meditative practices require you to become attuned to your breathing at an early stage. In order to bet the maximum from these studies, it is vitally important that the body and the mind receive sufficient oxygen. The act of breathing itself is important for proper bodily function. It massages the internal organs and moves both nutrients and wastes. From a meditative perspective, focusing on proper breathing unclutters your mind, and helps you to relax. How often have you had trouble sleeping and heard "focus on your breathing" or "breath slow and count your breaths"?

    So, breathing right is important. But, how do you do it?

    In order to understand the right way to breath, you must also know the wrong ways. You want to avoid what are called "Clavicle" and "Thoracic" breathing. In "Clavicle breathing", the abdomen is sucked in and the shoulders and collarbone are raised. It is the shallowest type giving the least benefit. Expanding the rib muscles does “Thoracic breathing” which is where the stomach is often sucked in but the chest rises and falls..

    Proper breathing is more than simply "breath in, breath out". Proper breathing involves the abdomen, and four distinct stages: Inhalation, retention, exhalation and pause.

    Never force yourself to inhale to the point where you feel so full you might burst. A common mistake, you should never try to force it beyond comfortable fullness. Go about 2/3's full. Don't try to suck in all the air you can as fast as you can. Do it at a slow and steady pace for maximum effect. Breath with your abdomen. To get the feel for this, while wearing loose clothing, lie on your back. Place your hand on the upper abdomen, where the diaphragm is located, approximately just under your rib line. Breathe in and out slowly. The abdomen should expand outward as you inhale and contract as you exhale.

    A common mistake is to breath in and out as fast as you can. This can cause you to become lightheaded, and you get minimal effectiveness of the air. Instead, after breathing in about 2/3 of a lungful of air, hold it for about 3-4 seconds. This allows for proper exchange of oxygen and toxins through the cell walls, and can slow down your heartbeat and reduce blood pressure. Proper retention has many therapeutic benefits to the body.

    Don't try to force the air out. Empty from the top to the bottom, in a relaxed manner.

    When the lungs are completely empty, pause for a few seconds. This will allow the abdominal wall and diaphragm to relax so that they may operate at the best of their ability on the next breath.

    Proper deep breathing can reduce stress, expand your mind, increase your endurance and energy, and keep you alert. Shallow or incorrect breathing can leave you clouded, tired and lethargic. Regardless of your activity, remember to breath. Be aware of how you are breathing, and focus on a slow deep relaxed breath. You'll find you will be more effective in your daily activities.


    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Bob Hubbard is an administrator o[/font][font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]f the popular martial arts sites and He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. More of Bob's articles can be found at Please contact Bob if you would like him to review your martial arts product.

    [/font]©2006 Bob Hubbard - Copies of this article are free to distribute, provided all text is retained intact.
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  2. Kenpo_Iz_Active

    Kenpo_Iz_Active Greek Warrior-not 300

    proper breathing is very beneficial. Breathing correctly can increase your strength and chi, and, as indicated in your article, is healthier. Awesome article.
  3. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on:

    1) Reverse breathing
    2) Cyclical breathing
    3) How does pausing after inhalation and exhalation effect the body
    4) Tortoise breathing

    Good article btw
  4. hawkfish

    hawkfish Shodan - Shotokan Karate

    That's a great read Bob. Thanks for sharing it with us.
  5. Kaith Rustaz

    Kaith Rustaz New Member

    Thank you all. :)

    Reverse Breathing - "expanding the abdomen while breathing out through the nose, and then compressing it while inhaling via the mouth"
    I'm not personally a fan of this as it seems "not-right" to me personally, but some swear by it. I can see how it would help focus you during meditation, but I'll have to read up and work with it a bit before I can offer a more solid opinion.

    Cyclical breathing - Not a term I'm familiar with, and I found a few different definitions. One though, I like.
    I'll often do this when I'm stressed or when my mind is 'noisy' to quiet it, slightly modiied though to focus on abdominal rather than chest breathing. I've found that listening to nature sounds when doing this helps me focus by masking street noise.

    How does pausing after inhalation and exhalation effect the body
    Breathing too fast doesn't allow for proper oxygenation of the body. Pausing gives the body a chance to exchange toxins and oxygen and creates balance in ones internal energy systems. Proper breathing will give you more energy and help reduce both mental and physical fatigue.

    Tortoise breathing
    I've never heard this before, but found this definition: "At this stage, oxygen from the external environment is no longer needed. Your metabolism slows down so much that even the heart stops beating. You are in a very deep state of samadhi. The body of the meditator becomes its own small universe. The energy inside the body circulates, supports, and nourishes itself" from
    On the surface, it seems wrong, but I've heard stories of yogi doing exactly this. I'm no where near this level of understanding though.

    This made me think. I've got some serious research ahead of me. :) Thank you!
  6. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

    Whats the reasoning behind breathing in "bottom to top" i.e with the abdomen first. Why not with the top of the lungs first, then the lower lungs? or all at the same time?
  7. Kaith Rustaz

    Kaith Rustaz New Member

    The theory is that by breathing with the abdomen first, you'll get a more complete exchange of air. I believe there is also positive effect on internal energy due to the abdomen being a "power center" in several internal energy systems.
  8. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    You will also begin to use the lower portion of the lungs and increase your overall oxygen exchange. When you breath through the upper portion of your chest you are using something like only about 30% of your lung capacity. With abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing you are actually taking air into the lower lobes of the lungs, thus increasing your oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange and thereby increasing your internal energy.

    You can also take longer, slower, deeper breaths increasing your performance and endurance. Breathing that is "trapped" in the chest is actually quite similar to Asthmatic breathing, yet many people who are not asthmatic still breath this way.
  9. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

    Yes, but I dont mean just using the top half, I mean filling the top half first then the bottom half
  10. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

    ok thanks
  11. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    There is a breathing technique where this is done, but it is not done as a regular breathing technique. This is called Crane breathing and the person takes a full breath in with the abdomen and then holds the breath and gently pushes it to the upper portion of the lungs (chest). Then continues to hold the breath and recirculates the breath to the abdomen. This continues for as many reps as possible.
    I have heard that free divers use a technique similar as this greatly increases lung capacity and the expansiveness of the lung tissue.
  12. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

    Thats sounds interesting! I will try and research it. Thanks

    I only asked because I have been taught (in qigong) to fill the top half of the lungs then bottom, then to try and fill the back of the lungs. I think this was to follow the direction of the flow of chi through the body which goes down the front and up the back (I was a while ago). It does seem more common to do it the other way, but I was wondering if there was a good reason for it.

    Sending oxygen to the "power centre" (lower dantien) is an interesting thought though
    Last edited: May 25, 2007
  13. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    Now it sounds like you are talking about the fire cycle of the microcosmic orbit. This would incorporate a different rate of breathing as well, though right or wrong is hard to say as differences in Qigong styles are just as numerous as MA.

    Though now that you mentioned Qigong, this type of breathing is indeed used in some Qigong techniques. I would be interested to know what kind of Qigong you practiced this would give a better idea to the breathing techniques.

    I have been taught to use reverse breathing for various MA techniques as well as meditation, though it is generally for a deeper level of meditation and should be progressed to and never practiced exclusively. It usually does not "feel right" because as the name implies it is reversed so it is actually quite usual for dispeling toxic Qi/breath (in this sense) and also releasing power.
    Last edited: May 25, 2007
  14. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

  15. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    Looks pretty good, though as we know about websites, it is very hard to tell. Without practicing with the instructor I cannot say (and will not say) anything about the system. His website does not go into enough detail to tell for sure. From my own personal experience the following is a good set to follow when choosing Qigong:

    1) Just like any MA do you enjoy the teacher/master/instructor. One of my teachers used to say: "Wanna know about a teacher? Take his senior students out for a beer/tea and see how you get along with them. Maybe ask them questions about the teacher. If you don't get along with any of them, chances are you won't like the teacher."

    2) Qigong should not have any negative side effects. After some practice you might feel a little light headed, or "headachy" for a SHORT time. This is natural especially b/c you are altering your breathing patterns and detoxing the body. You should not exp. any pain, or euphoric feelings, lassitude (fatigue) or nausea etc.

    3) Most Qigong practitioners (imo) should not require you to subscribe to their beliefs. Nor should they promise great spiritual power, their concern should be healing and helping other individuals and should not be concerned with their own gains.

    4) Qigong should not truly be forced in any way, either physically, mentally, or spiritually. It should just come and go.

    Hope this helps, again not hard and fast rules, but just what I have learned in seeking proper Qigong/breathing technique teachers. :D
  16. aikiwolfie

    aikiwolfie ... Supporter

    I still like this exercise. Please forgive my bad spelling :D
  17. Statika

    Statika Valued Member

    Thanks for the advice Taoquan. I have been studying some of the martial side of LAMAS for a few years, which is closely tied in with the qigong/health. So I have done a fair bit of qigong, but do not know the theory too deeply (yet). I do feel I made a good choice initially (by luck more than anything), and it ticks the boxes on your list. Bit late to be switching anyhow.

    I dont usually train directly with the grandmaster on that website as he is in the USA at the moment and I am in the UK, I train with one of his students. Met him once though for a Martial Arts grading, nice but intimidating!
  18. Taoquan

    Taoquan Valued Member

    Great technique Aiki!
    This is a very basic and sound way to build up the breathing and lungs as well as dispel toxins. This is another great point, BREATHING SHOULD NOT BE COMPLEX! LOL, this sounds so simple, but holy cow you got a lot of people out there making Qigong and breathing soooooo long and drawn out and difficult. Breathing is just that breathing.

    So does anyone else have any other cool breathing techniques? I have done:
    1) Reverse breathing
    2) Tortoise breathing
    3) Crane
    4) Cyclical

    All these have very different effects on oxygenating the blood and developing proper Qi and breath coordination.
    Glad to hear it meets my observational criteria :) just remember Qigong is like a MA you must train in it and put forth just as much effort. But just like a good MA the results are worth the work.
  19. McJizzle

    McJizzle Banned Banned

    I wasn't aware that there was a proper way to breathe. I've survived this long while doing it "wrong," so I think this is a bunch of ********!
  20. bcullen

    bcullen They are all perfect.

    Do us all a favor and just stop breathing. Thanks for your support. ;)

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