Air is the most important of the seven needs of the body to function trouble free. Proper breathing helps in supplying sufficient quantity of oxygen to the body and proper usage of lung capacity. Most of us know it. What we miss is the connection between proper breathing and constipation.
Breathing exercises help in relieving constipation indirectly. The idea is to make the body relax. Remember, if your mind and body are full of tension, none of the organs work properly. If you can make the body relax, intestinal muscular contractions are proper and stool moves easily in the colon. Relaxed (relaxed doesn’t mean inactive) colon is very important in passing stool.
Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.- Andrew Weil, M.D.
Breathing has two functions: Supply of oxygen to various organs of the body and removal of waste products and toxins from the body.
Mental tensions force restricted breathing. When you have problems, you are tensed and tend adopt a body posture that causes reduced lung capacity. Your breathing becomes shorter.
Your breathing tends to be shallow when you concentrate on some serious work. It may also happen that you almost forget to breathe and suddenly you become aware of it.
Most of the time, we are not aware of our breathing. Try this awareness breathing. Stop thinking of other things and try to concentrate on your breathing. Be aware of the air going in and coming out. Be aware of how your belly and chest are moving when you inhale and exhale. Do this for 10 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. This improves your concentration and soothes your mind when you are angry or tensed.
When your breathing is too shallow and short, it limits both oxygen intake and waste elimination. The body is starved of oxygen and toxin build up occurs. It leads to reduced vital energy, premature aging and poor immune system.
As shallow breathing does not use full capacity of the lungs, do this deep breathing exercise two or three times a day to start with:
You may do this while sitting, standing or lying down. You can do it in your office or while traveling.
- Breathe out slowly, emptying your lungs. Allow the belly contract as if air is coming 1. out of the belly.
- Breathe in slowly as you expand the belly and then the chest.
- When the lungs are full, hold your breath for a few seconds
- Breathe out slowly, first releasing the chest and then the belly.
- Repeat for 10 cycles.
Dr. Weil says, since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. He recommends three breathing exercises to help relax and reduce stress:
- The Stimulating Breath
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise (also called the Relaxing Breath)
- Breath Counting.
Exercise 1: The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
- Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
Exercise 2: The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is simple and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
If you have trouble holding your breath, speed up the exercise but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Its effect is less perceived in the beginning but gains in power with repetition and practice.
Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Limit to a maximum of four breaths at a time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be alarmed; it will pass.
Develop this technique by practicing it every day- it is a useful tool. Whenever something upsets you, use it before you react. Use it whenever you are tensed. It also induces sleep.
Exercise 3: Breath Counting
A deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.
- To begin the exercise, count "one" as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five."
- Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on the next exhalation.
The counting is a feedback to help you know when your mind has drifted off.
Try to do 10 minutes of this breathing exercise. It improves concentration.
Along with physical exercises, use breathing exercises also to relieve constipation and enjoy the benefits of natural colon cleanse. Since one of the vital factors of yoga is controlled
breathing, if you are already practicing yoga for constipation, you need not go for breathing exercises separately.