It’s true when many traditional and alternative medicines describe breathing as the very essence of existing. Breathing is one of the primary rhythms we see in life which include sleep awake, birth and death, light and dark.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that significant studies have been done to examine the role breathing has on aspects of our life such as health, emotional well being, relationships and the state of society in general.
In yoga, the breath is known as a rather unifying principle called prana, a wide-reaching energy that can bridge body, mind and spirit together in a harmony that is the basis of yoga and meditation. Yoga breathing exercise then becomes the set of yoga breathing techniques seeking to maximize this universal energy that exists inherently in all of us.
Those who practice yoga believe that this state of harmony is natural and that there are many aspects of life that pull apart our inner harmony. Yoga breathing exercise is one of the basic fundamental techniques we can use to control and even eliminate the impact external forces have on our overall health and well-being.
Take our fight or flight response as one example. The instinctual fight or flight response served our ancestors well, arising infrequently to keep our ancestors out of danger and harm. Today, most of us suffer from an almost chronic, permanent fight or flight response triggering symptoms that lead to digestive problems, high blood pressure, deterioration of the arteries and many other stress-related illnesses.
Yoga breathing exercises tackle this chronic stress response by breaking through the mind-body response and re-focusing us on our natural state of internal harmony.
YOGA BREATHING EXERCISE BASICS
The good news is that we don’t have to master yoga breathing exercises to realize the benefits, but it is important that yoga breathing techniques follow a few basic guidelines.
1. Practice Breathing. First and foremost is that we must give ourselves the permission, time and motivation to improve our breathing through exercise. Yoga breathing techniques are proven to help master control over our mind and bodies, but it can only work if you commit to a disciplined program over a period of several months.
2. Understand the Physiology of Breathing. A large part of advanced yoga breathing techniques involves altering the inhale and exhalation speed as well as controlling the depth of breathing exercise. The goal of yoga breathing (pranayama) is to ease the mind and heart, but also increase the oxygenation of the cells within your body – otherwise known as the process of respiration. To master pranayama, your mind pictures the exhalation of toxicity and gas while on inhale, your mind envisions clean, pure oxygen feeding your body.
3. Become Aware of your body as it breathes. Yoga breathing techniques stress the role of your body, your abdomen, your ribs, your thorax and chest as well as your lungs in the yoga breathing process. For example, when you practice deep breathing, the puffing out of the abdomen is a critical indicator that you are taking in enough breath to accomplish adequate oxygenation. Truly mastering pranayama (yoga breathing) is only possible when you become aware of your breathing rhythms in any activity at any time of day.
4. Focus on both inhalation and exhalation. When I first started yoga breathing techniques, I focused almost entirely on the inhalation, making sure I was taking a truly deep breath, without focusing at all on how I was letting the air out of my body. In fact, exhalation is just as important to the success of yoga breathing exercises. Focus on a consistent, controlled release rather than a jerky, uncontrolled release.
The long-term health benefits of yoga breathing exercise are thought to be significant, but I can tell you that the short-term increase in energy, focus, peace and brain power you gain from just a 5-minute yoga breathing technique are incredibly powerful to your overall well being, productivity and happiness.