The Natural Breath Exercise
1. Breathe in naturally. Notice whether your breath is taken in through your nose or your mouth. If the breath is taken in through your nose, this is correct natural breathing. If you are breathing in through your mouth, this is incorrect breathing. The nose is miraculously designed to filter out many of the impurities which inhabit the air around us. By breathing naturally through the nose, many of these impurities are filtered out before they reach your lungs. If you continually breathe in through your mouth, impurities can travel through your throat and into your lungs unrefined. If you breathe through your mouth in a natural and relaxed state, you must strive to correct this by very consciously breathing through your nose. Incorrect breathing is a learned behavior; it can therefore be cor- rected by unlearning the inappropriate technique.
2. Watch your breath as you take it in. Does your stomach expand with the inflow of this breath? If it does, this is correct. If your stomach does the opposite—that is, if it pulls inward with the inflow of breath—this is incorrect breathing. Allowing your stomach to contract when breath is taken in restricts the flow and the amount of air which can be inhaled. By restricting the inflow of air, you substantially hinder your body's ability to take in oxygen. Thus, your body becomes oxygen-starved and numerous respiratory diseases may occur. If you find you are breathing incorrectly, consciously extend your stomach as each breath comes in. Several times a day, notice your breathing pattern and consciously correct this old habit, until an expanding abdomen becomes a natural part of your normal breathing pattern.
3. Stand up. Take a breath in naturally through your nose and allow it to fill your lungs as your stomach expands. How deeply does your breath permeate your abdomen? If you witness a baby breathing, its breath is taken in naturally and its stomach expands all the way down to the pelvic region. If you witness an elderly person, a person who smokes, or one who does little physical exercise, you will notice their breathing is generally very shallow, expanding only the chest.
From these examples, we can understand what type of breathing is most natural and beneficial to the human body. If you find your breath is shallow, begin to inhale consciously through your nose, allowing your lungs to expand as you very deliberately direct your breath to your lower abdominal region. Feel the breath fill your lungs and stomach with life-giving oxygen. Practice this directed breathing technique several times a day, until your breath, again, finds its way deep into your body, giving you longevity, health, and Ki.
If you find you do not breathe in a natural manner, do not mentally chastise yourself. Many people, as children or young adults, develop incorrect breathing techniques. Instead of blaming yourself, view this as an opportunity to make a conscious change for the betterment of your body and to move into a healthier and fully functional temple of your soul.