The first thing you ever did and the last you’ll ever do is breathe. Every person on Earth has practiced breathing every moment of his or her life since forever. So you’re probably already asking yourself, “What does this jerk have to say about breathing?”

There are several professions that take breathing very seriously. My background is in music and music education. One thing that I have learned from teaching students wind instruments is that people in general are very lazy breathers. They do just enough to survive and no more. It's like taking a job that allows you to pay for your rent and groceries and have none left over.

When you were a kid, you used to blow up party balloons the same day one of your little friends was blowing out candles. Those darn party balloons are impossible to blow up on the first try, no matter how purple your face gets. One day, somebody showed you that if you stretch the balloon out before you blow into it, it fills up much easier. Your lungs, because of the lazy breathing you've spent your entire life doing, are un-stretched-out balloons. The more you practice, the greater they will become. Think of your lungs as rubber balloons with indefinite volume.

So, here comes your first ever lesson in how to breathe well.

  1. Posture, Posture, Posture

    Be straight enough to give your lungs as much room to stretch as possible. Whether standing or sitting, make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are back. No slouching. You want to make your wind passage as clear and straight as possible, from your lips to your lungs.

  2. Blow out all your air

    Expel every cubic inch of air in your lungs and hold it. Now expel a little more. You'll find yourself able to do it, but not for long!

  3. Slowly breathe in to the count of eight

    By the time you have counted to eight, you should be FULL. Fill up so much that you feel your lungs stretch just the tiniest bit.

  4. Expel all your air again. Feel the stretch that getting it all out gives you.

  5. Repeat this process- but each time you do it, stretch your lungs a little more.

As you go, be sure that your body is as relaxed as it can be. Common faults are Tension (the enemy) in the shoulders, face, back, and arms.

Start to think about using your abdominal muscles as the engine that drives this process. The abs expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Any world-class athlete will tell you that the center of his or her body's energy is in the abdominal region. Also, the more stretching you do, the more you will feel your lower back expanding. Put your hand back there on one side and inhale. You should be able to feel your back swelling. The lungs are huge instruments that take up a lot of space.

Concentrate on stretching your lungs every day and see how much better you feel.

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