One of the basic yoga techniques essential to a satisfying yoga practice is the simple art of proper breathing. By following these easy breathing tips, you’ll discover the benefits of the yoga breath.
1. Sit comfortably. There are many “correct” ways to sit during a yoga practice. The key is to find the seated posture that fits your body best. Sitting cross-legged on the floor is the position most closely associated with yoga classes.
• You may wish to use a folded blanket or pillow to raise yourself off the floor, thereby allowing your knees to feel less stress. Your hands may rest on your knees with your palms facing upward.
• It’s important for your head, neck, and spine to be in as near perfect alignment as is comfortable for you. Yoga shouldn’t hurt. Ensure you’re in the most comfortable seated position for your own body.
2. Become aware of your breath. Most of us breathe throughout the day without any conscious thought about the breathing process. Yoga can change all that! Now that you’ve found your comfortable sitting position, you’re ready to concentrate on your breathing.
• Free your mind of all thoughts. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Concentration without any outside stimuli will enable you to focus more clearly on your breathing.
3. Begin yoga breathing. Inhale deeply, filling the lungs to capacity. Feel your chest rise with the breath. Feel a slight pause as you begin to exhale. Think only about your breathing. Count the seconds it takes to complete one full inhale and one full exhale. Gradually increase the amount of time for each inhale and exhale.
• Ideally, the timing of your inhale and exhale should be the same. Resist the urge to inhale slowly and then exhale quickly. If you can, spend at least five seconds on each inhale and five seconds on each exhale.
4. Calm the mind. Notice how you feel after spending a few minutes practicing the yoga breathing. A sense of peace and calmness begins to overtake your body and mind. You can feel your muscles begin to relax.
• Yoga breathing has many benefits beyond the physical. Your body will appreciate the intake of oxygen-rich air and your mind will appreciate the retreat from the stresses of the day!
5. Add movement to yoga breathing. Simple movements added to yoga breathing can relax the body or warm it up for additional yoga postures. While seated, put your chin on your chest and slowly rotate your head from your right shoulder to your back, then to your left shoulder and finally to your chest again. After a minute or two, reverse direction.
• You should be concentrating on your yoga breathing (slowly inhaling and exhaling fully) as you move your head.
• Here’s another simple movement you can add to your yoga breathing: While seated, stretch your hands out from the sides of your body. As you inhale, slowly raise your hands overhead allowing your palms to touch. Pause for a second, and as you exhale slowly, bring your hands back down to the floor.
• Continue with this movement, ensuring that your breathing matches the movement. Inhale, hands rise to touch. Exhale, lower hands to floor.
Basic yoga breathing can be done anytime, anywhere. Don’t wait for yoga class to receive the benefits of this wonderful, calming technique!