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The Effects of Reverse Breathing

author image Christina McDonald-Legg
Christina McDonald-Legg has been writing about health, wellness and travel since 1999. Her articles have appeared in "Colures Magazine" (London), "The Sunday Times" (Dublin), "The Connacht Tribune" (Galway) and "The Seattle Post-Intelligencer," and been featured online by the U.K. Department of Health. McDonald-Legg holds a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland.
The Effects of Reverse Breathing
A woman is sitting in a yoga pose practicing deep breathing. Photo Credit UlaBezryk/iStock/Getty Images


Reverse breathing -- also called Taoist breathing -- reverses the natural in-out movement of the stomach found in natural breathing. It occurs when the diaphragm is pulled into the chest during inhalation and drops down into the stomach on exhalation according to Yoga Journal. Its practitioners believe this powerful breathing can have many effects on the body.

Strengthened Abdominal Muscles

Reverse breathing is often used by martial-arts experts, and concentrates on the "hara" -- the Japanese term for the abdomen -- during exhalation. With regular practice, this exercise can strengthen the abdominal muscles, making your breathing naturally strong. Inhale through your nose, drawing your stomach in and up as your upper chest expands with oxygen. While inhaling, contact your perineum muscles, the muscles between the anus and the pubis. The focus of reverse abdominal breathing is the central point of the perineum, or the "huiyin." Contract and pull up the huiyun to concentrate on the abdominal muscles. When your lungs are full, exhale through your nose, and relax the huiyin. Simultaneously, push your abdomen muscles out and down. This will help strengthen your abdominal muscles.

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Stronger Immune System

Taoists believe that reverse breathing spreads more oxygen throughout the body, to be used for healing. Guardian chi, a protective shield of energy around the body, is built up by drawing the energy from this type of breathing deep into your tissue and bones. This energy helps the body ward off negative bacteria and viruses that can be dangerous to your health, giving your immune system increased functioning capacity.

Increased Energy

Reverse breathing causes a change in the pressure between your chest and abdomen, helping boost your energy levels. During inhalation, your diaphragm moves down and your stomach contracts in. The resulting pressure in your stomach helps pack the energy from your breath into your abdominal tissues, organs, and spine. As you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes up and your stomach relaxes out, suddenly releases the pressure and guiding the energy outward.

Increased Lung Capacity

Reverse breathing helps increase lung capacity by allowing more air in the lungs. In traditional breathing, you use both your diaphragm and lungs to inhale -- but the two end up preventing each other from allowing you to inhale or exhale fully. Proper reverse breathing forces your diaphragm to expand entirely, creating a vacuum in the lungs as they fill entirely.

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