As if not breathing
I breathe diaphragmatically to maximum amplitude, add smiles, and eliminate the breath-holds. I aim to breathe so slowly that I feel like being on the edge of air-hunger, wanting to draw more air. Because of the slow, connected (circular) diaphragmatic breathing, an observer looking at my stomach should find it challenging to detect my breathing. I like to call it “Breathing as if not breathing,” or in short, “As if not breathing.”
How I exercise ‘As if not breathing’:
- I sit comfortably with a straight back, relax my tongue and jaw, and close my eyes.
- Reset my breathing if needed.
- Breathe diaphragmatically and exclusively through the nose.
- Within four counts, inhale very slowly while reciting my mantra, “Peace and quiet,” twice.
- Within the next eight counts, exhale very slowly while reciting my mantra, “Peace and quiet,” four times.
- Repeat the sequence (without breath-holds).
Note: After a few cycles, I hold my breath to assess if I’m breathing slow enough. If I don’t reach ‘air hunger start’ immediately, it indicates that I can further slow down my breathing.
Since I breathe to maximum diaphragm amplitudes every time, the volumes across the cycles remain approximately the same. Here, my minute ventilation is solely controlled by my breathing speed. So, the speed of mantra recitation regulates my breathing speed. That helps me slow down my breathing.
My coherent breathing
I feel that when I practice ‘As if not breathing,’ it is the closest I get to my personal coherent breathing. That’s when my heart rate and blood pressure drop, and I feel deep internal calm.
In the past, I wondered how a fixed number of breaths per minute could be a coherent breath for everyone—for a person that reaches ‘air hunger start’ after 4 seconds, and the same count for a person who reaches ‘air hunger start’ after 30 seconds. The same goes for people with a significant difference in their breathing rate at rest. I can imagine that there is a fixed number that works well for most people but not all, in particular not those who have breathing exceptions. And what about changing circumstances, like personal cycles and emotional states, that are not accounted for when using a fixed number of breaths?
Wouldn’t it be better to find an indicator instead of a fixed number and, according to that, find a personal coherent breathing? I use ‘air hunger start’ as my indicator to fall into a state of reduced heartbeat, blood pressure, and deep calm. I double the duration of my exhales compared to my inhales (ratio 1:2) and slow my breathing rate to the point that if I stop breathing and hold my breath, I instantly feel ‘air hunger start.’ When practicing ‘As if not breathing,’ my breathing rate lands at around 3 breaths per minute, which is my personal coherent breathing rate. This method should also function well for those having breathing exceptions.