Essential breathing technique Preliminaries

All groups participate in the same training regime on Day Two, so fundamental is this breathing technique to learning how to relax. Group 2 usually learn this breathing technique best in a lying position.

Before teaching the breathing technique, I first get novices to learn what a four-second breath feels like. It is a four-second breath in, and a four-second breath out. This must be practised a few times by the clock until memory makes it automatic. The timing is important because it is the basis of all subsequent breathing techniques.

Most people have confused ideas about deep breathing and equate it with chest expansion and effort. In fact, deep and rapid breathing is known to generate tension and may provide unpleasant panic attacks. The type of breathing necessary for the relaxation response is nothing like this. Already on Day One you will have started to get an idea of relaxation response breathing. But, as Day One concentrated mostly on muscle control, a very simple approximation of the ideal breathing technique was accepted as second best, and was certainly better than the normal type of shallow and irregular breathing that we use every day.


Breathing exercises as well as all the other exercises should not be carried out within two hours of a substantial meal.

1. Learning the technique of relaxed breathing

1. Relaxed muscles

First take up your relaxation training position and work your way into feeling your muscles relax. You learnt how to do this on Day One, and I repeat the basic technique here. Lie on the floor, legs slightly apart, arms by your sides, head supported by a large firm pillow. A small pillow should be placed under each knee.

a. Breathe in and out regularly 10 times, and then gently feel the front of your right thigh with the middle finger of your right hand. Keep this finger rigid and prod the thigh muscle. The sensation

a Breathe in and out regularly 10 times. Prod right thigh muscle of right leg with rigid middle finger of right hand. Stay with the feeling in thigh muscle.

b Lift right leg off floor. Hold for count of five. Prod thigh muscle again. Count slowly to 20, prodding muscle repeatedly and staying with tense feeling of muscle. Count slowly to 20 again.

c Resume starting position. Breathe in and out gently 10 times, and prod thigh muscle. Concentrate on how relaxed it feels. will be a bit like prodding a beach li-lo or well-filled hot water bottle. The thigh muscles are bound together around the thigh bone in a tight sheath, like the outside rubber on a hot water bottle or air bed; when muscles are relaxed they feel wobbly, like the water in a hot water bottle. Try to stay with this feeling in the thigh muscle, though at first this will be difficult until the next manoeuvre (b) gives you a contrasting feeling.

b. To recognize tension in the muscles of the leg, lift your right leg off the floor and hold it so that the right foot is just off the ground. Keep it there while you count five. First of all you will feel a sort of ‘wormy’ wriggling feeling in the calf and lower leg muscles. Prod the front of the thigh once again. It will feel stony hard. Stay with this feeling while you count slowly to 20. Prod the muscle repeatedly to confirm the feeling from your prodding finger and the feelings coming from inside the muscle. Count slowly to 20 again. Now you will be feeling pressure in your left heel, left hip and left shoulder.

c. Now resume the starting (resting) position with the right leg on the floor. Breathe gently in and out and again prod the right thigh muscle, staying with the relaxed muscle feeling and thinking how different it feels from the tensed muscle.

Repeat with the left leg. (Right-handed people usually learn to relax the right side of the body more easily than the left, and vice versa.)

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