How to Use the Full Capacity of Your Lung - Deep Breathing Practice
Here is my simplistic explanation for the way we breathe:
The diaphragm is a muscle located between our chest and abdomen. It is a horizontal divider between the chest and the belly.
When the diaphragm is pushed up, it creates less space in our chest (and lungs). When there is less space in our lungs, air is pushed out to the atmosphere. This is an exhale.
When the diaphragm is pushed down towards the belly, it creates more space in our chest (and lungs). When there is space in our lungs, air from the atmosphere comes into the lungs. This is an inhale.
So, breathing is creating more or less space in our chest area.
On an inhalation - If we let our belly expand, the diaphragm will have more space to move down to, and we will create more space in our chest - therefore there will be more air coming in.
On an exhalation - If we draw our belly in, the diaphragm will be pushed up, creating less space in our chest and pushing more air out.
Conclusion: in order to use the full capacity of the chest space and breath deeper, when we breath, we need to move our belly too.
Now let's practice:
Practical Chest-Belly Deep Breathing Practice:
Step 1: SIT
Sit with your spine upright. (Preferably in Sukasana (cross legged) or Virasana. Otherwise, find a chair, on which you will not slouch).
Step 2: HANDS
Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Close your eyes (unless it makes you feel uncomfortable) and breathe as you normally would. Notice if your belly or your chest move as you breathe.
Step 3: NOSE
Try to inhale and exhale from your nose.
Step 4: CHEST BREATHING
As you inhale, let your chest expand and your ribs expand to the sides. As you exhale knit your ribs back in towards your chest centre. Continue breathing only to your chest for about a minute. Try not to move your belly at all as you do. (Your hands are there to help you feel the movement of the chest and belly, avoid pushing them in and out, lay them softly on the chest and belly and let them rise when the body rises.)
Step 5: BELLY BREATHING
Now breath only to your belly:
As you inhale, let your belly blow up like a balloon. As you exhale, draw your belly button in as if you were pulling up a tight pair of jeans. Breath into your belly for about a minute while trying not to move your chest at all.
Step 6: DEEP BREATHING
Now try to combine both spaces:
As you inhale, expand your belly and chest. As you exhale, knit your ribs in and draw your belly in. Try this for a couple of minutes.
This is an advanced practice and it can be hard and confusing to perform at first. If you find that you are straining your jaw or neck and that you are overall nervous while practicing this, try to do a little less. Also, remind yourself that it can take years of practice to easily perform this type of breath. But it's great that you started!
Please be aware, pranayama practice (breath practice) should be done with care and gentleness as bretahe has an effect on our mind (and body). Therefore, practice this with love and care for yourself. Be patient, don't over do it. Stop if you feel dizzy. Consult your doctor before practicing breath control if you have any medical or mental conditions.
You might find this video helpful in understanding how breathing works: