Yoga Breathing Practice
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. ” —oprah winfrey
Our breath plays an integral role in the functioning of our entire body and is also a reflection of our emotions and state of mind. Better breathing patterns make us more present and grounded, ready to take on whatever comes our way. When our breathing goes awry, we may find ourselves stressed, overwhelmed, and out of balance. The same is true in reverse: When we ’re happy and healthy, we tend to breathe easier. With conscious breathing, we can impact our inner world.
What Is Good Breathing?
Learning to consciously regulate our breath is one of the most powerful tools we can cultivate. It helps us control our emotions and let go. As we covered earlier in the book, yogic breathing practices are calledpranayama , which means “to control or extend the breath.” Prana is our “life force” and ayama means “to extend.” With slow, regulated breathing, the quality of our lives improves dramatically.
When we are stressed, our breath becomes shallow. We breathe quickly and only fill up the top part of our lungs with oxygen. Our chest barely expands with each inhale, which triggers our fight-or-flight stress response.
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In contrast, when we’re fully relaxed and present, our breath becomes slower and deeper. This triggers our rest-and-digest response, which lowers our heart rate. With each inhale, our entire chest and belly expand, flooding us with oxygen. With each exhale, we fully contract all of these parts of the body, releasing carbon dioxide. In this manner, each full inhale nourishes every part of our being, while each complete exhale cleanses and releases toxins from the mind and body.
Why does all of this matter? Well, the average human being takes over 20,000 breaths a day. Each breath brings us the opportunity to positively affect our state of mind and benefit our overall health. When we talk about good breathing, we’re talking about a conscious, slow, even, and deep breath that satisfies our need for oxygen while helping us maintain a calm and present state of mind. With conscious breathing comes conscious living. This is what we strive for in yoga.