It's All about the Breath!
No matter what type of yoga you practice, it’s all about the breath. The breath or prana, which is our life force, energizes each cell in the body. In order to awaken this essential energy, we need to breathe consciously. Conscious breathing is deep breathing and controlled by the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the heart rate and encouraging digestion.
On the other hand, shallow breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. This is the location of the fight or flight response. Fast short breaths increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Using conscious breathing, we experience the following benefits:
Improved blood oxygenation
Decreased reports of anger and depression
Conscious breathing techniques are practiced during yoga and may include the following:
Diaphragmatic breath- The diaphragm is located below the ribs and above the navel. The diaphragm drops down to expand the lungs on inhalation and rises up on exhalation. You can place your hand on the diaphragm when laying down and feel the movement.
Belly breath- The belly is located below the navel. The belly moves out on inhalation and in on exhalation. You can place your other hand on the belly when laying down and feel the movement.
Back Breath- Consciously breathe into the back and let the breath spread horizontally across the back. You may be aware of the shoulder blades moving away from each other on inhalation and the spine elongating on exhalation.
Ujjai breath- The back of the throat narrows and sound is created on exhalation. The glottis is partially closed and friction creates a whispering sound in the mouth. It may sound like the wind or an ocean breeze.
Integrating this conscious breathing into your yoga practice encourages each pose to be a meditation. Remembering to use your breath during the day can ease your life during stressful situations. At night it can help you fall asleep naturally.
The more we breathe consciously, the more we turn inward during yoga practice. As we hold a pose, our concentration increases. By the end of practice, the body and mind are ready for meditation. The breath and movement prepare the body to relax. Connecting the mind and heart ultimately brings peace, unity, and bliss.