Natural breathing is whole-body breathing–the way a healthy baby, young child, or animal breathes. Natural breathing involves the harmonious interplay and coordination of the lungs, diaphragm, belly, ribcage, spine, and other parts of the human body. In natural breathing, the depth and speed of the breath is appropriate to the actual demands of the moment, as long as those demands are not being conditioned by unnecessary tensions, contractions, or restrictions in the body.

During natural inhalation, the diaphragm moves downward massaging, either directly or indirectly, all the organs, and the belly, chest, back, and lungs all expand to varying degrees. During natural exhalation, the diaphragm moves upward massaging the heart, and the belly, chest, back, and lungs retract.

Natural breathing occurs mainly through the nose. This not only helps ensure the natural filtering, warming, and moisturizing of the air we breathe, but it also helps ensure that we don’t release carbon dioxide too quickly, as we often do when we breathe through out mouths.

Because of the constant pressure of stress on our inner and outer lives, and the way this stress influences our breathing, many of us do not breathe naturally. We have become upper chest breathers, with little coordinated movement in our diaphragm, belly, and back. This often brings about a chronic state of hyperventilation, a state in which we breathe too fast for the real demands of the situation.

Those of us who breathe too fast often find ourselves holding our breath in moments of stress and perceived fear. This is a natural momentary response to the presence of danger (it often signals the beginning the “fight or flight” reflex, a reflex which we especially needed in our early history on this earth). In a society in which chronic stress has become the norm, however, our fight or flight response in turned on many hours each day, and we frequently find ourselves either breathing very fast or holding our breath.

What’s more, since early childhood, we’ve learned to use breathing to cut ourselves off from uncomfortable emotions. By breathing less, by breathing in a more-shallow way, we hide from our feelings. Another important factor is the growing lack of daily exercise, stretching, and movement in our daily lives. Many of us sit more or less immobile, hunched over at desks for many hours each day. This gradually conditions our body and breathing to a very narrow range of movement. Still another factor is the prevailing image of the hard, flat belly that we see in fashion magazines and health clubs. To be sure, the belly needs to be strong, but it also needs to be soft and supple for deep, natural breathing to take place.

© Authentic Breathing Resources