|Many ancient eastern cultures teach that the
breath is life. You can live for a long time
without food, water, or heat, but you can't live
very long without breathing. But how we breathe
is important. Without "proper"
breathing, our bodies do not function at optimum.
Without proper breathing, one cannot utilize
one's full abilities to sense.
young children breath naturally . . .which is to
say "correctly." Wind musicians and
singers, some athletes, and some martial artists
are taught to breathe correctly as a matter of
necessity for their occupations. The rest of us
usually do not breathe naturally, especially if
we live in the West.
Most people in the West "chest
breathe." That is to say, they breathe by
engaging only the barest minimum of their
diaphragm and instead rely on the muscles of the
rib cage to draw air into their lungs. This can
be verified by the rising of the shoulders and
expansion of the rib cage during inhalation. The
only time such breathers fully utilize the
diaphragm is when their bodies are physically
distressed, say by running hard and fast past
normal endurance. Only then does the diaphragm
fully engage, bypassing the persons regular
programmed "chest breathing" in order
to get enough air into the body. This temporary
use of the diaphragm often results in the
side-ache or belly-ache that people who are not
used to physical exertion experience when they
take up jogging or a similar activity for the
Why do most of us chest breathe? For one,
because our culture has a fetish for big chests
and little waists. We puff up our chests and suck
in our stomachs so as not to be seen as
unattractive, especially to the opposite sex .
Secondly, as a culture, we are unnaturally
"tied up" and tense, self-conscious and
in fear of negative judgements. We tie ourselves
up and "hold" ourselves, tensing our
stomachs, our chests, our shoulders and our jaws.
To breath fully with the diaphragm, one has to be
relaxed and at ease. And, once the diaphragm has
gone into semi-disuse, it is hard to get it
working autonomously again. It needs to be
reeducated, so to speak -- that is, our brains
need to be reeducated to stop stopping the
diaphragm from doing its work.
Anatomically speaking, the diaphragm is a
muscle that, when it engages, pulls downward
creating a vacuum that causes our lungs to fill
with air. The downward action of the diaphragm
pushes on the internal organs which in turn
causes the belly to expand outward. When the
diaphragm relaxes, that air is expelled out of
the lungs and the belly returns to normal. This
is called, "belly breathing."
When we inhibit this process by keeping our
stomach muscles tense, the diaphragm is not
allowed to work at full capacity and the
intercostal muscles of the rib cage are required
to work much harder than they were intended to.
This in turn places undue stress on the heart.
The first step to learning to sense fully is
to relearn how to breathe. Without that, you
can't do Tai Chi, you can't do tennis, you can't
do much of anything effectively, and you
definitely can't relax enough to enjoy any sort
of depth sensing. So, we relearn how to breathe,
and this is going to be the hardest thing you
have to do in this whole book. It will also take
the longest to develop. Most people carry a deep
seated psychological aversion to having their
stomach "pooch" out. With diligence,
you may be able to achieve natural autonomous
breathing with the diaphragm in two years unless
somehow you already retain natural breathing from
childhood, or you have already reprogrammed
yourself because of a skill like operatic
- Lay down flat on your back on a padded
but firm surface, like a mat.
- Place your hands over your solar plexus,
the area of your abdomen just below your
- Gently but forcefully expel all the air
from your lungs. In order to do this you
will find yourself sucking in your
- Relax and allow your lungs to begin
filling with air. You will feel your
diaphragm pull down as your stomach
returns to it's normal position.
- Continue to inhale and allow the breath
to push your belly out and your hands
upward toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and allow your stomach to return
You have just engaged your diaphragm in an
exaggerated fashion. Under normal breathing
conditions it is not necessary to expel all of
the air out of your lungs or actively push the
Now continue to so breathe, mentally exploring
the sensation of the body part involved in the
pushing up of your hands.
Now, instead of using your breathing to push
your hands up, feel the drawing down of the
diaphragm pull air into your lungs and cause your
hands to rise. Then, relax and let the air leave
your lungs naturally.
You have just breathed as nature intended,
using your diaphragm.
Watch out when you start to do this. You can
get quite light-headed because, instead of only
drawing air into the top third (the small
portion) of your lungs, you are drawing air
into all of your lungs, and therefore getting a
lot more oxygen than you are used to.
Now sit up and still breathe using your
diaphragm. You might need to put your hands back
on your tummy at first.
In the normal course of your daily life,
anytime you think about it, check your breathing.
You must relearn to naturally breathe with the
diaphragm ...unconsciously. I am telling you that
is will take most of you who are diligent at
least two years.
As an exercise, once a day, lay down and place
a book on your tummy and make it go up and down.
Use heavier and heavier books to exercise and
strengthen that diaphragm.
Have someone check your breathing when you are
asleep or napping. When you are breathing
naturally while asleep and while you are
awake, you are well on your way to having
succeeded in de-programming yourself from