The alveoli are the oxygen receptor sites in the lungs. When we breathe from the muscles of the upper chest as many of us do, we aren’t bringing the breath down deep enough into the lungs to reach this concentration of receptors. In fact, there is just a sprinkling of alveoli at the top of the lungs, and those shallow, rapid chest breathers are absorbing enough oxygen to simply survive, not thrive. When we breathe with the diaphragm muscle, we pull the oxygen to the base of the lungs, allowing the air to reach the huge concentration of alveoli, therefore dramatically increasing the absorption of oxygen into the blood.
It is in the book “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” that author Stephen Cope states that “breathing diaphragmatically feeds the body up to 600% more oxygen than breathing through the muscles of the upper chest.” In fact, there is an entire section on the difference between the diaphragmatic breather and the chest breather, right down to the brain patterns. Changing the breath affects everything about us, physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. In fact in the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, he says that only when we breathe with the diaphragm are we living in the moment, and that God lives in the moment.
Here is a quick exercise to increase diaphragmatic breathing. Lie on your back, place your hands on your belly and when you inhale, feel the belly rise. When you exhale, let the belly fall in a relaxed way until the end range when you want to squeeze the belly small to get the last bit of waste out of your lungs and tissue. Notice how this changes how you feel.
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