Monday, January 10, 2011

A Basic Breathing Exercise : The Brick

Babies don't breathe using their chests but their bellies. When we grow up, we gradually learn how to use our chest rather than our abdomen to breathe. The reasons why this happens are mostly cultural. It is important to re-learn how to breathe with our abdomen rather than our chest. The Brick is the first in a series of exercises designed to develop the practice of abdominal breathing

There are 3 goals to this exercise :

  • Teach you an easy way to breathe with your abdomen rather than your chest.
  • Train you to focus your mind in the tanden area (Bring your mind there
  • Teach you to pay attention to the sensations in that area (Listen to your mind there)


Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your legs bent with your knees in the air. Place an object the size of a brick, a woodblock or a phone book on your belly. The weight needs to be enough that you feel it, but not so much that you feel uncomfortable.

As you breathe in, make sure the brick rises.

When you breathe out, let the brick go down.

Avoid any chest moves when breathing in, avoid any contraction of the abdominal muscles when you breathe out.

Focus your mind on your Tanden : an area 1 or 2 inches under your belly button, and concentrate on how you feel when your abdomen expands during inhalation (breathing in) and collapses as a balloon emptying itself when you exhale (breathing out).

The Tanden is an area localized 1 to 2 inches under the belly button, and 3 or 4 inches inside. It is approximately the center of gravity of your body.

There are actually several Tanden in the body, the Lower Tanden is the important one for our exercise. Unless otherwise specified, when we mention the Tanden, it is the lower Tanden.

Important points:

Avoid any chest moves when breathing in.
Avoid contraction of the abdominal muscles when breathing out.
Keep your mind focused on your Tanden 2” below the belly button.
Avoid muscular tension, try to keep your overall body relaxed. This will help you only concentrate on what you feel in the Tanden area.

Tips :

You may practice on your bed or a couch, however, it is better to practice on a firm floor or exercise mat. This helps better sense what is happening in your tanden area.

During breathing in, it may be helpful to visualize the air flowing from your nose up to the tip of your skull and then back all the way down through your spine to your sacrum (the tail bone) to then fill up your lower abdomen.

When you breathe out, visualize the air flowing up through your sternum (breastplate) toward your nose.

(Although in this above drawing, the subject is sitting in the lotus position, this visualization can be practiced in any position)

No comments: