It is a Catch 22 when these muscles are so tight that breathing into the entire lung space becomes very difficult, and if you don’t breathe fully then the muscles remain tight.
When a student begins to practice deep breathing, they can feel the subtle affects of a deep breath if they are not used to breathing freely. Oftentimes, while assisting a student or friend to lift up out of their slump, by lifting and expanding their chest, I have witnessed them get dizzy from the increased oxygenation. This reveals that posture alone will affect one’s breathing.
The practice of deep breathing can turn this physical and emotional challenge around.
I always suggest to my students in the early stages of their yoga practice to "keep it simple." Begin with just one pose. One pose can change your whole day.
Likewise with the practice of waking up to the breath I suggest to simply become aware of your breathing. While walking, in conversation, or at work you have the opportunity to observe the changes in your breathing. Start to notice how the breath is affected in different social situations. In conflict and in pleasure the breath reflects your state of mind as it is in that very moment.
A daily morning practice of 10 minutes of balanced deep- breathing, simply inhaling and exhaling, will increase your physical and mental energy. The space in the spine, ribs, and chest will begin to expand and a sense of calm and peacefulness will improve your mood.
The practice of Yoga postures creates the space for greater breath capacity. Doing simple shoulder and chest movements that brings flexibility to the upper chest and open the lungs will open the door for more natural deep breathing.
Begin your breathing awareness exercises lying down on your back. It is helpful to lie on top of a folded blanket under your upper back to allow your chest extra space. Begin with observing how you breathe. Are you a mouth breather or a nose breather? If you breathe through your mouth it is important to get into the habit of breathing through your nose. Breathing through your mouth lets bacteria and germs enter your body without the filtering system of the nostrils. Breathing through your mouth also dries out the throat, and unlike nose breathing, does not warm the breath.
Begin to notice at what point your breath gets tight. Observe the sound and sensation of the air moving through your lungs. Observe the balance between your inhalation and exhalation. As you relax those areas that show tightness, your breathing also will begin to expand and miraculously you will find yourself feeling more calm and relaxed. Continue this process until you feel a more easeful flow of your breath. From here, begin to count to yourself the length of your inhale and exhale. The breathing cycle is simply a complete breath in and a complete breath out. Find a comfortable count for your breathing rhythm. Proceed to inhale and exhale with a workable count. You may begin with a 6 or 8 seconds per breath and after some time and practice you will be able to extend your count as you go along.
It is important to take care not to feel any strain while doing your deep breathing. With regular practice, you will begin to experience an increase in your lung capacity. This will be the invitation to increase your timing. Practice this simple breathing exercise on walks, while waiting for the bus, or at the market, workplace, etc. As you practice deep breathing, your posture will improve, back aches will begin to disappear, and your mental attitude will be uplifted.