If you are suffering from any form of physical, mental or emotional dis-ease, there is one thing that you can do right now to set your feet firmly on the road toward healing. Breathe like a yogi. Read more to find out why and how.

When we are born, we are very efficient breathers. Ever heard the phrase, sleeping like a baby? Ever thought about what it means? Well, take a look at the next sleeping baby you see how peaceful and relaxed they are. Watch their bellies rise and fall. It's hypnotizing. It's called diaphragmatic breathing. We all were born doing it. It's the best way to STAY relaxed throughout our lives and to prevent and even cure dis-ease.

First, an upper level anatomy lesson. I'm fond of those.

When you breathe, your diaphragm descends into the stomach cavity. Your ribs and the intercostal muscles between your ribs stretch and pull your lungs open. Your lungs fill passively with air through a series of diminishing bronchial tubes. The oxygen-rich air 'rubs up' against blood engorged lung tissue. An exchange of oxygen and waste product takes place. The oxygenated blood heads out on the A-TRAIN to all of your body tissues which are hungry for something to burn and you exhale the waste-laden air.

Your body is programmed to work well this way, it's need for fuel coordinated with an optimal ratio of oxygen/blood metabolization. But when the ratio goes off, due to physical demand, maladaptive breathing patterns or gasping at an emotionally charged situation, your body flies into stress mode causing a cascade of physiological responses such as tightened muscles, decreased immune function, disruption in digestion, trouble thinking clearly and more (see Stress Rx blog).

Gravity also takes it's toll. When you are standing or sitting upright (as we tend to do in adult human bodies) gravity pulls the distribution of blood toward the lower lobes of your lungs. If you are not breathing diaphragmatically - drawing that oxygen into the lower lobes of your lungs - your optimal oxygen/blood ratio is upset and you fly into stress mode again.

Most of us have FORGOTTEN how to breathe this way, favoring instead thoracic (chest) breathing. For some of us, emotional trauma has caused us to adopt a chronic muscle gripping around the diaphragm, cutting our awareness off from the emotions of the body below. Some of us simply wish to preserve that coveted trim waistline. There are countless other reasons, of course, but you begin to get the picture that our emotions, awareness, breath and consciousness are intimately linked. The yogis have known this for centuries. We in the west are just beginning to get it.

Furthermore , yogi-breath does a lot to soothe and heal. When your belly rises and falls rhythmically as it does during yogi breath, the organs of the abdomen are stimulated: stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, adrenals, intestines and the organs of the chest including the lymph nodes, thymus, pericardium and the vagus nerve (see Viva Las Vagus Blog at SubtleYoga.com). It creates an automatic inner machinery which keeps the organs lubricated, oxygenated, mellow and healthy.

Now that we understand how our breathing is making us sick, our job is to relearn how to breathe. We will start lying down like a sleeping baby. The next step will be to take what we learn out into our every day lives, breathing like a peaceful yogi even when we are sitting in traffic jams or standing in long grocery lines accompanied by screaming kids.

Here is the breakdown.
Phase 1: Diaphragmatic Breath

1. Lie on your back.
2. Breathe slowly and consciously into the lower portion of your lungs only. Allow your belly to rise as your diaphragm descends into the abdomen.
3. Breathe out slowly and with control.
4. Allow the duration of inhales and exhales to be equal.
5. Repeat this for several more cycles until you feel comfortable with the motion of the belly. If you feel a jerkiness upon exhale, this is evidence that you have a chronically tight diaphragm and could use a yoga class!

Now breathe normally for a few minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.
Phase 2: Thoracic Breath

1. Place your hands on your ribs.
2. Breathe slowly and consciously into the middle portion of your lungs only. Allow your chest to expand.
3. Breathe out slowly and with control.
4. Allow duration of inhales and exhales to be equal.
5. Repeat this for several more cycles until you feel comfortable with the motion of the chest.

Now breathe normally for a few minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.
Phase 3: Clavicular Breath

1. Place one hand on your upper chest near your collarbones.
2. Breathe slowly and consciously into the upper portion of your lungs only. Allow your upper chest and collarbones to rise toward the sky and toward your chin.
3. Breathe out slowly and with control.
4. Allow duration of inhales and exhales to be equal.
5. Repeat this for several more cycles until you feel comfortable with the motion of the upper chest.

Now breathe normally for a few minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.
Phase 4: Yogi Breath

1. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your ribs.
2. Breathe slowly and consciously into the belly, chest and collarbones.
3. Breathe out slowly and with control allowing the collarbones, chest and belly to deflate.
4. Allow duration of inhales and exhales to be equal.
5. Repeat this for several more cycles until you feel comfortable with the entire motion of the body.

Now breathe normally for a few minutes and notice the difference in how you feel.

When you practice yogi-breath lying down, the motion of the body is very big and dramatic. However, when you take the breath into your everyday life - when you're standing or sitting, the movement becomes more restricted, the motion more subtle. It should never feel forced. If you find your body feels very restricted it is another great sign that it's time for a mindful and expansive yoga asana class.

Practice this breath before you get out of bed and before you fall asleep. You might try it for 10 minutes in your car before you enter the office in the morning, or after lunch. It is time well spent. The result is a quieter mind, cooler emotions and a relaxed, healthy, radiant body. Your friends will want to know what you're on - and where they can get some too!

Author's Bio: 

Samantha has been teaching yoga for 5 years and has been a student for 10. She is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and working toward a 500 hour certification in Subtle Yoga and intends to pursue further certification as a Yoga Therapist with an emphasis on chakra therapy and meditation. She is currently immersed in the study of physical and subtle anatomy. Her educational background includes a degree in ancient languages, and a passion for comparative religions.

Her passion for her studies shines through in her teaching, giving her the ability to communicate the rich lessons of yoga to students of any cultural background or physical ability.