Allow me to start this article with an insightful quote:
When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
What Is Yoga Breathing?
One of the vital functions of the human body is breathing. In the previous article, Yoga For Stress Reduction, I have briefly shared with you a few relaxation techniques that involve breathing exercises. In this article, we will delve deeper into the importance of Yoga breathing and how learning breathing techniques can benefit you.
As one of the 5 Principles of Yoga, Pranayama or more commonly referred to as the Breathing Exercise is designed to promote proper breathing and breathing control. From the point of view of Yoga, breathing is important in providing oxygen to the brain and blood as well as in controlling Prana, which means the vital life energy.
Pranayama is typically used with the Asanas or the yoga poses. The union of Asanas and Pranayama is considered to be the highest form of self-discipline and purification, which engages both the body and mind.
The Pranayama consists of a number of exercises that are specifically intended to help meet the body’s oxygen needs. In Pranayama, you will come across the following terms:
- Prana, meaning “life energy” or “life force”
- Yama, meaning “control” or “discipline”
- Ayama, meaning “non0restraint” or “expansion”
The Importance Of Yoga Breathing
The practice of Pranayama is not only to promote healthy breathing, it is also important in the preparation of the meditation process.The human respiration process involves breathing in or inhaling oxygen into the body, delivering the oxygen supply to various areas of the body system, working as a form of energy to charge all parts of the body. The body then exhales carbon dioxide, which takes along with it toxic wastes from the body.
Through the practice of Pranayama, you will be able to achieve the balance and stability of both oxygen and carbon dioxide.However, as we all know, modern life is fraught with stress – from work, family, peers, financial pressures and so much more. In face of these stressful situations, we often ignore the importance of breathing, which often, when left unregulated is shallow and fast. This type of breathing only uses a fraction of the lung capacity, which leads to inadequate supply of oxygen and often results to a number of health complications. Among the common ailments associated with improper breathing includes cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, as well as fatigue.
Over time, the negative energy will build up and contribute to restlessness and reducing the Prana in the body. Through the practice of deep and systemic breathing, you will be able to rejuvenate the body.
The Benefits Of Yoga Breathing Techniques
Since breathing is a normal part of daily body function, we barely pay attention to it. It’s something that our body functions, without the need for the mind to focus. So why spend time learning Yoga breathing techniques? Here are some of the known benefits:
- Pranayama teaches proper breathing techniques. Regular breathing from the chest only uses a small fraction of the lungs. Yoga breathing techniques can help increase the lung’s capacity, allowing more oxygen supply into the body to support proper function.
- Pranayama helps reduce the body waste and toxins from the body. This is important for preventing diseases.
- Pranayama aids in digestion. By learning proper breathing, the body’s metabolism is increased and the health condition is improved.
- Pranayama helps enhance focus and concentration. Proper breathing can help reduce stress and aids in the relaxation of the body.
- Pranayama also help in enhancing self-control. By enhancing concentration, one is able to better handle reactions and temper. The mind will be able to function clearly, preventing wrong, irrational decisions.
- Pranayama also leads to spiritual journey made possible by maintaining a relaxed mind and body.
It is however very important to note that Pranayama should not be forced on anyone and it should not b practiced without any proper preparation. Otherwise, it may possibly lead to nervous breakdown.
The Problem With Normal Breathing
If you will take time to observe the way you breathe, it tends to be shallow and quick. This prevents the body from getting in adequate supply of oxygen as well as hampers the elimination of carbon dioxide from the body. When the human body is starved from oxygen, it will result to the build-up of toxins.
According to studies, animals that were found to breathe slower and deeper are known to live the longest. One good example of this is the elephant. The tendency to get overly emotional and excited as well as the fast paced lifestyle are among the reasons why people in general adapt shallow breathing. Constant exposure to negative emotional stress can significantly affect breathing, resulting to fast and shallow breathing.
Yoga Breathing Techniques
The purpose of learning the traditional Yoga breathing techniques is not to impose rigid techniques that you should follow blindly. Keep in mind that these techniques are all subject to certain modifications.
The Cleansing Breath
- Sit up straight on a chair. Make sure to loosen up your belt or any tight clothing
- Relax you body and breathe normally.
- Exhale with force then draw in a deep, calming breath.
- Once your lungs are full, exhale through the nose in a rapid fashion and contracting your abdominal muscles to aid in the exhalation.
- Perform the same routine for 5 to 6 repetitions.
One Nostril Breathing
- Use one finger to close one nostril.
- Inhale deeply and slowly through your other nostril.
- Exhale slowly.
- Perform this breathing pattern for 5 to 6 repetitions.
- Perform the same breathing exercise with your other nostril.
Complete Yoga Breath
- You can perform this exercise while sitting, standing or lying flat.
- To start, expand your abdominal muscles and breathe into the lower portion of your lungs.
- Continue filling the middle portion of your lungs, moving up to the upper portion, expanding the middle ribs and the upper ribs in the process.
- Once you have fully filled up your lungs with air, hold your breath for 5 seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your nose.
- Perform the same procedure for 2 to 3 repetitions.
Breathing is something we do every day without much thought about its importance. With Pranayama, be able to make every breathe you draw in count.