I have been told many times that I make the most annoying sounds when I am working on the computer. Apparently I hold my breath until I can’t possibly hold it any longer, then I let it out in short, irritating spurts. When I was made abruptly aware of this behavior I started to pay much more attention to my breathing and realized that there are many situations where I find myself either holding my breath, or breathing very shallow.
When I attended the yoga teacher training at Anamaya , breathing became part of our course work. It was mandatory that we take full breaths using our entire lungs! Imagine that, actually breathing deeply and being aware of the air moving in and out of our bodies. This practice became very useful to me in bringing my nervous system into balance and also making me very aware of the importance of feeding our bodies the oxygen needed to provide our cells the ability to create energy.
In yoga there are many breathing exercises which can be called pranayama . Pranayama is “the extension of life force through breath”. Prana, the essential life force, is taken in to the body through breath, and so these exercises are intended to bring more prana, ie. life force into the body. The ancient yogis in India were very aware of the connection between our breath and our mind, so they developed breathing techniques to help control our breathing, and in turn, eventually control our mind.
When I teach a class I generally start out with one or two breathing exercises. These exercises help increase our attention to our breath, provide relaxation, and help us focus internally. The first one I generally use with beginners is “sectional breathing”. Sectional breathing is when you breathe with the three parts of your chest. Below are some instructions on trying this technique:
- Sit in any comfortable pose and then lift both arms up and bend them backwards at the elbow to touch your back below the shoulder blades. Now take a few deep breaths through the upper chest. You can feel this part working in this posture.
- Now place your hands on your side chest, just under the nipple. Take a few deep breaths through the middle chest.
- Now place your hands on the sides lower chest where the rib cage ends. Take a few deep breaths through the lower chest.
- Place one hand on the navel. Take a few deep abdominal breaths.
- Now try to take a “tidal breath” involving inhalation and exhalation through all these parts.
This type of breathing will make you much more aware of your breathing habits. Do you generally breathe through the top portion of your chest? How often to you take full breaths? Do you find yourself holding your breath like I do?
Making yourself more aware of your breathing habits is an important part of your yoga practice and also of good health. Pay attention, and BREATHE!