This 3 PART series on “How to Practice the Two Wheels of Breathing.” is a summary of various breathing techniques taught by Dr. Sang H. Kim during the MBX-12 Spring Workshop.
Deep Breathing Methodology
Deep breathing has therapeutic effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and emotional regulation. Studies have shown that deep breathing decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, and blood pressure, and increases energy levels and parasympathetic activity, leading to a calming effect on the mind and a sense of control of the body. The basic method used for deep breathing is simple: gently inhale through the nose, briefly hold the breath, and then exhale through the mouth (or the nose) for a duration of twice your inhaling time.
For example, when I practice deep breathing, I use the 12-second long, 3-3-6 breath cycle method. Here are the steps I go through:
- Gently breathe in through the nose for 3 seconds.
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds.
- Exhale slowly through the mouth for 6 seconds.
When you exhale, form your mouth in the shape of an ‘O’ and make a soft ‘Ho’ sound. Slowly contracting the muscles of the abdomen, thorax (chest), and mouth, try to exhale completely. I found a complete exhalation useful in knowing what is my maximal breathing capacity, therefore I can find my optimal range.
When you become proficient at deep breathing, one breath takes 15 seconds, meaning you can take 4 breaths per minute.
As you breathe, count the seconds in your mind. Doing so promotes mindfulness and awareness of your practice. In time, you will establish your own natural rhythm and you won’t need to count to regulate the duration of each breath.
Note: Always use your common sense when practicing breathing exercises. If you feel uncomfortable or fatigued, stop and resume after a break, as you take breaks between any exercise routines.
The Mechanics of Breathing
The process of breathing is natural yet mechanical: When the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle under the lungs, moves downward, the pressure in the thoracic cavity and lungs decreases, allowing the air to enter and fill the space. When the diaphragm relaxes, it returns to its original position, facilitating exhalation.
The amount of the air entering and exiting the body depends partially on the range of diaphragm movement. By relaxing and expanding the belly muscles, you can increase the range and breathe more deeply.
The force of the air can be increased or decreased by controlling the speed of breathing and the muscles mobilized for the breath. If you breathe in abruptly and forcefully, the muscles in the rib cage and abdomen expand, increasing the force of the breath.
Conversely, if you breathe out slowly and gently, the muscles in the airway, intercostal and abdominal regions relax, eliciting a calming effect on the mind.
- Gently breathe in through the nose for 2-3 seconds. At this time, feel the belly expanding and the diaphragm descending.
- Hold the breath for 2-3 seconds. At this time, hold the movement of the belly and diaphragm.
- Exhale slowly through the mouth for 4-6 seconds. At this time, let go of the extended belly muscles and diaphragm.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
Go to PART 2