Breathing is easy, right? We do it all the time. We don’t have to think about it and the air just keeps coming and going. But what about if we do think about it. Straighten your back, take a slow, deeeeeeeep breath in through your nose and a long, sloooooow breath out (mouth or nose)… and there you go – , mindful, conscious breath! Your yogic journey has begun.
Breathing is something which happens whether we think about it or not so it can often be the trickiest part to get the hang of in your first few yoga classes. With so much new information to take in – and since we inhale and exhale whether we’re thinking about it or not – our attention often goes elsewhere…
… especially if – like me – your teacher is fond of throwing around some sanksrit names and peppering in some philosophy, biomechanics and kinesthesiology… (or pyscholology, sociology, quantum physics… the list goes on: yoga integrates all of these things!)
So, if you’re in a yoga class and you lose awareness of your breath, don’t worry, it’s completely normal! But when you remember, come back to it. It’s pretty magical and its effects on the body and mind are scientifically documented. In yoga, we call this “breathwork” pranayama.
Normal v Yogic Breath
If you’re a singer, athlete or asthmatic, you may already have a relationship with Deep Breathing but usually we have quite a shallow breath which doesn’t fill the lungs entirely.
We can change this by continuing to inhale deeper – letting the ribcage and belly expand as the diaphragm draws down – inflating the lungs to the max!
A full exhalation removes not just this extra air taken from our deeper breath in, but also residual air left in the lungs. This can be achieved by contracting the abdomen slightly at the end of the exhalation and squeezing even more air out than usual.
The next deep inhalation is now even bigger! Through this Deep Breathing we can create enough space to take in up to seven times more breath. Breath is Life.
Benefits of deep, conscious breathing include:-
- Increased endurance
- Better digestion
- Strengthened immune system
- Detoxification of the body
- Mental clarity
- Relaxation – by more on this later in the series!
- Pain management/reduction
- Massage for the Organs
- Improved posture
- Stronger heart and lungs
- Increased energy levels
- Happiness (by increasing pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain)
Just 5 minutes of Deep Breathing a day – or even just 5 deep breaths! – can make a huge difference.
Try it for yourself and see.
Jeannette Amy (Nette) Hopkinson (BSc Hons Sports & Life Sciences) is a certified yoga teacher and Oneness Blessing Giver based in Andalucia. Follow her on IG @nettenirmalayoga or find her on facebook @NirmalaYogaSpain