Following on from last weeks post, today I’m discussing the breath as promised. I’m sharing a how to guide on effective breathing which will maximize the benefits of your practice and your life.
Did you know that your breath is the easiest tool for self-healing? It can be done anytime, anywhere and guess what it’s free! The problem is we’ve forgotten how to breathe properly and most of us are walking around breathing incorrectly. The effects of mindful accurate breathing technique are scientifically proven and one can see the results immediately.
“The breath is the very first thing I teach my beginner students in class. The breath changes everything and it very much changes our yoga practice. It makes it a very different experience in a good way of course.“
You’re probably aware that different emotions or activities give different breathing patterns. That is why the breath and emotions are interrelated. For example, when we’re nervous, stressed, angry or anxious we will reluctantly tense and contract our entire body. This results in shallow or short quick breaths and the heart rate speeds up. On the other hand, when we’re happy or relieved, a big inhale and exhale is normally taken and causes the body to go into a state of pure relaxation. We have forgotten that our breath is the giver of life and it affects our whole mind and body in all ways. Many of us are ‘chest breathers’ which means that they we’re not breathing fully into our lungs and as a result insufficient amounts of oxygen will go through our body.
I want you stop what your doing right now. Check in, how are you breathing? How are you feeling? Are you relaxed or are you tensing and contracting your muscles? This is a really simple and effective mindful practice to get into the habit of taking throughout the day. A lot of us do not think we hold our breath but on closer observation discover that, we do. I see it in my classes all the time. Breath holding often distorts the energy flow of healthy breathing. What I’m seeing time and time again in my students and clients are chronic migraines and anxiety that to me are most certainly related to various forms of breath holding or holding back. When we hold our breath; our upper chest, diaphragm, throat, jaw, tongue and face tightens up.
The first step towards change is awareness, so today I’m going to ask you to bring awareness to your breathing. By breathing the way the great yogis have taught, through the nose and fully engaging the diaphragm, we maximally eliminate impurities and increase our energy, vitality and resistance to fatigue.
FULL YOGIC BREATHING INSTRUCTIONS
- Start by finding a quiet space, sit upright, close your eyes and put your hands on your abdomen and take your awareness to your breath.
- Breathe slowly and comfortably through your nose.
- With each inhale, rather than raising your shoulders to fill your upper chest, allow your abdomen to relax and feel as if your breathing deep into your lower abdomen.
- Feel your diaphragm (this is the muscle located just under your rib cage) massaging your abdominal organs and notice your abdomen begin to rise slightly.
- As your abdomen comfortably finishes it expansion, extend your inhalation to first fill your middle chest and then your upper chest. Allow these areas, including your whole rib cage, to expand. Don’t try to extend the duration of your inhalation unnaturally or hold your breath. Keep it natural and comfortable.
- For the first couple of breaths, notice the momentary pause between the end of the ‘in’ breath and the start of the ‘out’ breath. Like the in and out flow of waves and seasons, this junction point between the in-flowing and out-flowing breath is representative of the natural cycles of life. Just be mindful of the gab between your breaths – the ebb and flow of your breathing – is a really powerful way to reconnect your body with the universal rhythms of mother nature.
- Now take your attention to your abdominal area for a few more breaths, notice how you can eliminate more air by contracting your abdominal muscles slightly as you exhale -also through your nose.
- After these breaths, just exhale naturally and, using your attention, allow the exhalation to extend as long is comfortable. Feel the old, impure air being released from your body as you pave the way fora new, fresh bath of life-giving oxygen and prana to enter.
- Spend a minute or two breathing this way now and practice it at least a couple of times a day. Good times may include while driving, watching TV or while sitting in work. It can be used as a stand-alone remedy when feeling stressed or anxious, experiencing headaches, or if unable to sleep at night due to an overexcited or restless mind.
Beautiful day, unfolding
Uncluttering the mind, unmolding
Even the bird song, no scolding
This moment of breath, no holding… Amana Aile Shebar
If you want to promote the highest level of mind-body health, don’t just eat well, breathe well too!
So I hope that now you can gain a better understanding of how important it is to breathe efficiently to help your body function at its optimum for peak health.
Enjoy the benefits of yoga breathing!
Be kind, be courageous, be yourself.
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