View Full Version : Breathing

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Thor's Hammer
03-26-2003, 06:19 PM
When performing breathing exercizes, we are supposed to keep proper posture and breathe without expanding our chests. This seems controversial in two ways to me- I cannot seem to draw in any air much below my ribcage, and the only way that I can is by breaking with 'proper posture'. What am I to do?

03-26-2003, 06:34 PM
I have no idea, maybe it is a posture problem.

03-26-2003, 06:50 PM
Hey Bryan :)

So you can use your belly to breathe. Some people have a problem with this because they have not much room to move in the belly. Some just have their obi on too tight.

I don't know which exercise you are doing, but if it isn't too intense you might want to try to think of breathing differently. Rather than trying to push your tummy out to get extra air in, you can try to use your stomach muscles in contraction to pump out the residual air, so that you can get air in during relaxation.

This residual air expulsion tactic allows you to use your rectus abdomini (muscles) which will also contribute to trunk conditioning.

Now, it might not be right for the type of breathing exercise you are trying to do, but you may want to ask a sempai, or your sensei to see if it would jive with their exercise.

:ai: :) :ai:

Jake McKee
03-26-2003, 07:31 PM
Hi Bryan,

Abdominal breathing is not an easy thing to learn but your technique will improve tremendously when you get it. In their essence, all Japanese arts focus on breathing. Some teach it from the beginning and some leave it more up to the students to figure out.

You can practice by taking your shirt off and looking in the mirror. Take a deep breath. Things to watch for is if your shoulders rise and chest expands (that's what you don't want!). If your belly moves in during the inhalation and out during the exhalation, than you're on the right track.

There's been a lot of things written on breathing, from zen books, to swordsmenship, to Aikido. For Aikido, I'd recommend taking a look at some of Tohei's books on the subject. It's pretty dated, and his teaching has changed over the years, but click here (http://www.blackbeltmag.com/archives/blackbelt/1964/mar64/meditationinaikido/meditationinaikido.html) for an article from 1964 on breathing.


Jake McKee


03-26-2003, 07:54 PM
Now that I think about it, I've had problems like that too. I'm a wuss and seem to get short of breath easily. :] I've noticed a few things. First of all, practice, practice, practice. After a while, you will learn how to breathe that way and for some reason you'll have more lung capacity.

Of course, some of that may be technique. It's important to be completely relaxed. If there's any tension in your shoulders or upper chest, your body will probably automatically try to take a chest breath, even while you're trying to take a belly or diaphragm breath. Another thing is to let (Instead of forcing it. Try to stay relaxed and just move your stomach muscles.) your belly expand out and DOWN as you breathe. Jane's right. If your obi is too tight, ya can't do this very well in the dojo.

I'll admit, though, that most of my breathing practice is outside of the dojo when I'm relaxed. I don't like the in-dojo exercises, where I'm huffing and puffing already. When it comes down to it, the above advice may not work very well. SO...

Jane is right again. If you pull in your stomach when you breathe out, you'll expel more air, making more room for fresh air. I don't like beatin' a dead horse and repeating other people, but I think Jane's thought could use a bit of clarification (And talk of muscles intimidates me.:)) The teacher I learned this technique from suggested you picture you flattening your abdomen as you breathe out, and going further, pulling your stomach in like you're trying to wrap it around your spine. With practice this gets easier too.

Appropriate to the exercise or not, it's just common sense that the most efficient way (which is NOT chest breathing, so don't use that for an excuse. :)) to breathe is the best way to breathe.

If you're really concerned about your breathing (and you really should be at some point in your training), it's a good idea to practice off the mat in everyday life. Sometimes I practice breathing like this as I walk to school. It helps a little.

What it really comes down to, though, is practice, practice, practice. :) Eventually you'll figure it out, prolly by feel alone.

Oh yes. Posture matters too. As soon as I figure out the perfect posture, maybe I can do these exercises better too. :) Just try to sit up straight and see how it feels. If not, go with what's most comfortable. The most important part is not passing out! :D

(reads Jane's message again)

Trunk conditioning? What? You mean I'm getting exercise?! D'oh! :)

Well, anyway. I'll just go back to my breathing now as I walk to work. :) Hope that helps, Bryan.

Hey. Now I'm curious, Jane. Where are the rectus abdomini muscles?

Thor's Hammer
03-26-2003, 08:12 PM
The reason I am asking is that I run competitively in addition to aikido and I almost always breathe with my chest when racing. Logically, exerting yourself at your maximum oxygen intake should make you move to the most efficient method to breathe, but I don't (at least consciously) feel my stomach expanding or contracting.

03-26-2003, 09:39 PM
Try to focus on having a "soft belly." Just relax your stomach muscles, so that when your diaphragm contracts, it has some place to go. This seems to be the toughest thing for people to get when doing abdominal breathing, since western culture doesn't like round, soft bellies.

But we do! :)


03-26-2003, 09:43 PM
Watch babies breathe, that's natural. They breathe with the belly moving out on the inhale and in on the exhale. We have to re-teach ourselves to do it as adults for some reason. I learned to do it while taking tai chi. I had to consciously remind myself to breathe like that all day. Eventually it became my normal breathing pattern. I even breathe that way when sleeping now (a girlfriend of mine freaked out one night when she put her arm across my chest and didn't feel it moving...she thought I'd died :rolleyes: ). Now if I take a "deep" breath high up in my chest it doesn't feel like I'm getting nearly enough air.

Just keep practicing it'll get easier.


03-26-2003, 09:57 PM
The reason I am asking is that I run competitively in addition to aikido and I almost always breathe with my chest when racing.
The thing is, though, that relaxed breathing (like what some breathing exercises call for, and what we are trying to maintain in our practice of aikido) is different from forceful breathing (like what you do when running).

When you are breathing in a relaxed manner, there is really no need for any muscle other than your diaphragm to contract when inhaling, and there is no need to contract any muscles at all when exhaling, since the elastic recoil of the diaphragm is enough to expel the air. When breathing forcefully, however, you engage all of your breathing capacity, meaning that many muscles contract, expanding your ribcage by elevating ribs, and then to exhale your rectus abdomini and many other muscles come into play to expel the air.
Logically, exerting yourself at your maximum oxygen intake should make you move to the most efficient method to breathe, but I don't (at least consciously) feel my stomach expanding or contracting.
Er... well, the body does take care of itself, so it will try to reach a peak of oxygen intake, but it is also subject to all sorts of bad habits. Check yourself when you are breathing heavily. Are your abdominal muscles (anterior abdominal muscles, for you picky people out there :))contracted? If they are, and as I've said, they help with exhalation, it would be counterproductive to the contraction of a muscle in that region that does inhalation (at least that's my logic; someone correct me if I'm wrong), so you wouldn't get much in the way of diaphragmatic breathing. If you could engage your diaphragm when running, you may be able to increase your lung capacity, and help your performance.

Good luck!


03-27-2003, 06:34 AM
If you are so inclined, you may consider purchasing Scott Sonnon's Dykhaniye video (http://www.zdorovye.com/zdorovye.html) As I understand it, the tape gives instuction and demonstrates different breathing exercises. This would allow you to create your own exercise program.

Alternatively, Sonnon offers the

Be Breathed (http://www.rmax.tv/bebreathed.html) video, which has an exercise program already created.



03-27-2003, 07:48 AM
Is this the same as taoist breathing ?

03-27-2003, 11:59 AM
No. Taoist breathing is different. Taoist breathing is where you do not let your abdomen either expand or contract as you breathe. You keep your abdominal muscles tight and thus when you breathe in, your diaphragm ends up pushing against the organs in your lower abdomen. When you exhale, those organs do the pushing. It's rather strenuous, but it's a technique to build and store energy. Which is what the Taoists were big on. :) The method that's been described so far is known as the Buddhist or baby breath.

Fiona D
03-28-2003, 04:19 AM
If you have any friends/acquaintances who are singers try talking to them about it too. One of the major things that is stressed in singing effectively is controlled abdominal breathing, using the diaphragm - it's next to impossible to get through a long phrase if one breathes high in the chest. You might even consider seeing a singing teacher a few times, as they generally do a lot of work with their students on breathing and posture.

03-28-2003, 10:22 AM
On a sidenote, learning to breath like this can also help with stress/anxiety/shyness. Learning to breath deeply from the abdomen and such instead of shallow breaths from the chest has been shown to reduce anxiety, and possibly help with being a little more outgoing.

Dennis Hooker
03-28-2003, 02:22 PM
From "A Collage of Poppy's Life" by Dennis Hooker

The cycle (a single breath is a single band of a spiral) is the motion of the Universe which has come to your body, which is nearest to your body. Your body is a part of the Universe. In this way breath meditation is a technique to realize the source of life. There are many breath techniques for many kinds of people. The moving meditation of Aikido is a breathing technique. The rhythms, motions, adjustments to ki direction, joining with other energies, are all spiraling with the same deep pulse of the Universe of which we inhale and exhale constantly."

The exercises I did helped me rediscover my Makoto No Kokyu (true breath). First I had to begin to remember my Makoto No Kokyu. This sounds kind of strange I know and for a kid from the south end of a small Midwestern Indiana town it was downright spooky. As Sensei explained it I knew it was something that some part deep within me should remember. Because it was something that was with me from the first second of my birth when I came into this world with a great kiai (shout) of life and joined with the universe through my first breath. This is true of all of us. We became part of the expansion and contraction of the universe, the ebb and flow of the tides that bind all living things. Kokyu does not only refer to the physical act of breathing air in and out of the lungs. It is the pulse of the universe. Our breath is part of that pulse as are tides of the oceans. I learned to use the various forms of Tanden No Kokyu (center of the body breathing) to strengthen my Makoto No Kokyu. I tell you this much my darlings, when it starts to happen, when you start to make that connection the Universe shakes. It opens up new vistas in your mind and belly and floods of new images and feelings wash over you.

03-28-2003, 03:54 PM
Is this the same as taoist breathing ?
Do you mean the Sonnon stuff? No, it's based on the idea that lugs are an inert tissue that are infact "breathed" for by the mechanics of your body movement. So you move your body / co-ordinate your muscles in such a fashion as to minimize energy usage / maximise C02 retention.


Similar idea to Frolov and Buyteko.

Thor's Hammer
04-06-2003, 10:02 PM
Now when I am performing these deep breathing trying to exhale all the air I feel a popping sensation near the end of the exhale, almost as if I am cracking my knuckles. Is this normal?

Megan J
04-06-2003, 10:59 PM
Another thing you might try when doing stomach breathing is using the sound "ho" when taking a breath. I'm a clarinet player by trade and when I was taking lessons and also when I teach, breathing from the stomach is really emphasized for breath control. Using the "ho" sound will automatically force the air down and you won't be using your chest to breathe (my fiancee also calls it the darth vader breath)

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to transfer over my musical breaths to my Aikido breaths yet. (I just started in January)

As for the popping thing, it doesn't sound normal to me. yikes. Good luck with that.

Jeff Tibbetts
04-07-2003, 09:19 AM
Mr. Hooker,

That is a pretty interesting selection. Where could one find information on finding Makoto no Kokyu? Is it something that's even been written anywhere that you know of? I practice deep breathing, but have no way of knowing wether I'm "doing it right..." When I first began deep breathing exercises I would get a feeling of consciousness expansion sometimes, usually when I was tired. I equated this with blood loss to the brain (I would get light-headed) and the tiredness, but I don't get that anymore. Of course, I assume that I don't get that anymore because I'm "better" at it, but I kind of miss that feeling. Anyway, the way you talk about breathing makes me really feel like I'm missing something entirely. I know that I'm still pretty new at all this, and I'm certainly willing to accept that it may take me many years, but why enforce bad breathing habits if I don't need to? Any ideas on good exercises for spirituality-based breathing, anyone?