Updated: Oct 7
Time to reclaim your calm by shifting from flight-fight-freeze mode, to the rest, restore, relax side of our nervous system. We'll show you how in three easy steps on the Ayurveda path. Start to feel like yourself again--today!
Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.
Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life
What is so important about diaphragmatic breathing?
Breathing links us both to the mind and the body. And the more we pay attention to breathing by way of a gentle awareness, the more we can relax and find our mind concentrated. That’s where diaphragmatic breathing exercises come in.
Change my breath and it changes my life? It may seem an overly dramatic claim, yet it is not. Without breath, where is life? There are many sayings in English about breath, we lost our breath, we catch it, we hold it, we take a deep breath--yet the breath of life--meaning something one depends on, is among the most profound. Breath is not something we tend to connect with consciously yet is foundational in Ayurveda and to life itself.
Ayurveda and Yoga are Sister Sciences
Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences, they go hand in hand. We often think of Ayurveda as a traditional natural system of medicine, and that is an important part--as we all benefit from a stable, balanced, healthy body and mind--yet it is one point in the vast system of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is a way to know--through your direct experience--the very nature of life. Breath and diaphragmatic breathing in particular, and meditation are vehicles for that exploration of our expansive interior.
How we breathe can change the flow of prana (energy or vital force) throughout our being and when prana is balanced, we notice that change in our life. When we use diaphragmatic breathing, we experience it as increased vitality, good mental and physical health, clarity, peace, and feeling like ourselves again.
When we learn diaphragmatic breathing, we remain relaxed, focused and less stressed and overwhelmed. That is every client’s number one goal.
Three Steps to Positively Changing Your Life
“Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing techniques, herbs and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.” --Molly Rossini, Minnesota
Pranayama and Diaphragmatic Breathing
Today, the word pranayama is familiar to many – yet its meaning may not be. The word “pran” is the prefix “pra” and the verb root “an”. Think of words such as animate and animation. The prefix “pra” means forth and perfectly. Prana is the animating force. Today, pranayama is widely taught as exercises of the physical breath, and as preparations for meditation, but it is a vast exploration of depth and subtleties.
There are many pranayama breathing practices. Some practices are generally balancing, and others specifically affect different doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), tissue layers, organs and channels. It is important to know, with certainty, your current state (Vikruti) before beginning pranayama.
Pranayama practices are powerful, and it is imperative to perform the practices that are correct for you currently, as well as to perform them correctly. (Incorrectly performed pranayama can create disturbances.) The first step, prior to pranayama, is to have diaphragmatic breathing well established – and this typically takes six months to a year of daily practice.
What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?
All systems of meditation begin with the observation of the breath. No matter what culture--all begin with the process of observing the flow of the breath. What is so important about breath? This universal focus tells us breath has a connection to our nervous system.
When we are aware of the flow of breath, we stimulate the part of the brain that helps us make choices—versus the flight fight response. When you observe the breath, and use diaphragmatic breathing, that relaxation system begins to operate under your control, at your will. Who doesn’t want that?
When we use diaphragmatic breathing, some interesting things begin to happen, it switches on the parasympathetic relaxation response--the rest, restore and relax part of the nervous system. This relaxation system requires a choice, (versus flight fight freeze that kicks in ever so easily) and we exercise that choice each time we observe the flow of breath. How do we benefit from that? It switches on the relaxation response which lowers blood pressure, slows the heartbeat, increases focus and creates a sense of deep peace.
Through breath awareness, we learn to remain relaxed, focused and less stressed and overwhelmed. Diaphragmatic breathing also helps to reprogram our habits and the judging and shaming voices we may hear in our head. Put simply, breath awareness brings the quiet to the mind that we seek.
One practice that is foundational for everyone, and is always beneficial, is diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the simplest yogic practices and one of the most powerful natural remedies.
How so? Diaphragmatic breathing provides a vehicle for managing stress, negative emotions, (remember, “take a deep breath”?), physical pain and it has a positive influence on sleep. As we practice diaphragmatic breathing, it creates a state of balance that leads to relaxation of the nervous system and a sense of safety and comfort internally. It is an Ayurvedic approach to taming anxiety and PTSD.
What are the influences on our breath and what can we do about it?
According to Harvard Medical School, "...it (diaphragmatic breathing) works well as a tool to help ease anxiety and garden-variety stress. Regularly engaging in belly breathing (or trying the mini strategy described below) can help you turn a fight-or-flight response into a relaxation response that's beneficial to your health."
There are three influences on breath. First, is automatic breathing, primarily the need for oxygen. This breathing occurs all the time and we don’t often pay attention to it. Second, is voluntary breathing such as when we speak. Ever feel tired after a day of meetings or teaching? Our breath is constantly adjusting to speak or to sing. Third, is the influence of emotions, pain, stress, anxiety, grief, trauma, we feel in our mind and our emotional heart.
These influences create a different breath. That breath may be held, (even working on the computer may change our breath, check in and see for yourself.), it may be jagged and shallow and not diaphragmatic. When we first lay down to do the guided practices we will notice these influences, in fact, we may notice them before and that positively drives us to do the practice.
When we begin to practice diaphragmatic breathing, we will notice that we relax and these influences begin to soften, to become less intense, slowed down and therefore less overwhelming. Through diaphragmatic breathing, we create a sense of calm within that we can learn to carry with us throughout the day. Think of the practices as training, or more accurately, re-training the mind and nervous system. Breathing links us both to the mind and the body and when that connection is made, and there is an awareness, things change in a profound way for us.
Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing
Provides a gentle massage to internal organs
Supports healthy functioning of the entire body
Creates a deep sense of relaxation and ease
Produces a calm, focused mind
Bolsters the immune system
Facial expressions soften and open
Voice tone becomes softer and sweeter
Supports healthy blood pressure
Naturally removes toxins (ama)
Rejuvenates body tissues
Calms Vata in the nervous system
Enkindles agni (digestive fire) and promotes healthy digestion
How To Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing:
Lie on a firm flat surface with your head, neck and spine aligned in Shavasana (corpse pose-see image below). You may cover yourself with a thin blanket or a shawl. If you need, place a thin cushion under your head and a bolster under your knees. Be comfortable.
Place one hand on your abdomen just below the rib cage. You will see the abdomen rise and fall with each breath from the movement of the diaphragm. Contacting and relaxing, expanding. In this reclined posture, there is very little movement in the rib cage.
Allow a gentle awareness to develop about the five qualities of diaphragmatic breathing. If the qualities are not present, there is nothing you need to do. Simply observe how the breath is now and in time, with practice, these qualities will emerge naturally.
So often on the path of yoga, it is not about doing, but about letting go.
Enjoy. Be. Simply be.
5 Qualities of Diaphragmatic Breathing:
1. Deep. Relax abdominal tension and let the breath flow deeply.
2. Smooth. The breath flows without jerks.
3. Even. About the same length of inhalation and exhalation.
4. Without sound (no forceful exhalations or inhalations.)
5. Without pause. At the end of an inhalation the abdomen rises and relaxes, expanding. Exhale. End of the exhale and the abdomen falls. Relax and inhale. Your breath will begin to weave one breath into the next. Flowing without pause.
Now as you begin to relax, something remarkable and subtle occurs. You will see that you are not the breather. Your body is in Savasana, diaphragmatic breathing is present, and you now sense your body breathing.
The fact is that you are the witness of your relaxed, involuntary, diaphragmatic breathing. As you allow your body to breathe, the mental effort that was present is relaxing more and more. Let your breath be as it is. Allow the breath to flow in a way that is just right for you.
If the five qualities of diaphragmatic breath are not perfectly present all the time, that’s perfectly ok. Any disruptions in breath will naturally resolve in time. Anxiety, grief, sadness, that influence breath are part of life, but they need not disrupt your breathing.
Your diaphragmatic breathing helps you to relax, restore and comfort you when these influences are present in life. Diaphragmatic breathing calms your body, soothes your nervous system, and relaxes your mind.
How long does it take to learn diaphragmatic breathing and change my life?
It takes less than ten minutes for diaphragmatic breathing to create a deep sense of calm—that is to say, for you to change your inner experience. You can create and carry this calm with you throughout your day and in every circumstance. Your capacity to heal, to be calm and to share your calm with others throughout your day, is present within you. Make use of our Guided Practices daily to change your breathing and change your life.
Be consistent and patient. Enjoy working with diaphragmatic breathing each day. It takes six to twelves months of daily practice to learn to breathe deeply, smoothly, and diaphragmatically. This phase of breathing is called Breath Training. After a good amount of diaphragmatic breath training, the next step is to introduce pranayama breathing practices.
According to Harvard Health, "Self-awareness—being in tune with your emotions—may sound fairly straightforward and simple. But people tend to overestimate their level of self-awareness." Click here to read more.
There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 step meditation process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.
"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."
- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.
3. Ayurveda Daily Routines: Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day
"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
"Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing techniques, herbs, and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.”
-Molly Rossini, Minnesota
Explore More: Ayurveda Breathwork Pranayama
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing Guide
This pranayama practice is suitable for most everyone and balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is a practice that is particularly helpful in relieving anxiety. It reduces emotional reactivity. It is a very effective way to quickly reach a state of very profound mental and physical stillness.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing Guide, click here.
Client Testimonial--Gauri Nagargoje, M.D.
“As a physician, I have always believed ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ In an era of spiraling health care costs, Ayurveda is the logical and natural solution.
I started working with Veena at a time when I was at the end of my tether, juggling my professional and personal aspirations.
I was encouraged to pursue a steady approach to create lasting changes. Now when I see my patients, I see so many sufferings from similar symptoms related to diet and stress.
I have routed several of my patients to Saumya Ayurveda. Veena is a blessing to have such a rich resource.
I am eternally grateful to Veena for anchoring me to my present state of health and peacefulness and for helping me to embark on a path towards the balance we all are striving for. Thank you so much.”
“Veena has helped me several times at various stages of my life to rebalance my doshas, and to bring me back to greater vitality. Veena’s herbal protocols and food recommendations are easy to follow and effective.
Combined with her beautifully guided relaxation and meditation practices, Veena offers a truly holistic to achieving and maintaining harmony in body, mind, and spirit—and living more peacefully and joyfully in an increasingly more erratic world.” --Gabrielle Allen, California
“Saumya Ayurveda has help me to become reborn. With the help of Veena, I have become more than ADHD. My entire body responds better to stress and relaxation.
Being a molecular scientist, it was difficult to grasp the simplistic complexity of Ayurveda, but the changes I experienced with Veena allowed me, not only a general understanding of health, but sparked a lifelong journey to use my knowledge to advance the acceptance of Ayurveda as a needed modality of health. This is a feat, considering I had difficulty focusing and digestive issues only four short years ago.
Veena’s evaluation and treatment is so individualized that it was easy to adjust my life which spawned health. Veena is a skilled healer with a solution to fit all.”
--Jessica B. Naturopath, Molecular Scientist, Medical School Resident, New York City
Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way
We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.
Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.
Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.
She is President Emeritus of the Meditation Center and former staff member of the Minnesota Institute of Ayurveda.
Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee. She remains passionate for over 30 years, helping clients feel their best physically, emotionally, and spiritually with Ayurveda.
Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, so it fits your life and becomes woven into your daily life, naturally.