Inhale deeeeeep. Exhale.
Breathing is so important in yoga (and actually almost all kinds of sports). However, what sets yoga apart from other sports is the correlation between the breath and movement. The breath guides your movement and sets the pace; every inhalation and exhalation is synchronised with a movement.
Still an infant in my yoga practice back then, I didn’t know what my Teachers were talking about when they said I’m “not breathing” or I’m “not breathing right”.
O.o?? Isn’t breathing supposed to be an instinctive innate ability of the living?
So I consulted Google sensei.
Breathe, right now.
“I don’t hear you breathing”, she said to me.
Okay google, what is the importance of breath in yoga?
Many of us tend to hold our breath in difficult poses and this is not recommended. Breathing can enhance your yoga practice and serve as an indicator of your stamina. Prana (breath) is integral in an asana practice. The intentional breathing — when done correctly — helps you flow into a pose better. For instance:
1. In supta matsyendrasana (supine spinal twist), breathe to enter a deeper twist with every exhalation.
2. In uttana shishosana (puppy pose), breathe to sink/melt your chest further down towards to mat with every exhalation.
3. Getting into Uttanasana (forward fold), inhale raise arms up, exhale fold forward. The flexion of the body only makes sense when exhaling; to fold to your maximum.
The breath also indicates or signals to you the duration of hold in a pose. Your breath should be easy and effortless. At any point in time when your breath starts to feel erratic or shallow, it is time to exit the asana. So remember to breathe in your practice, listen to your body (literally) and avoid overexerting yourself.
Breathe right, now.
“You’re not breathing right”, she said.
Okay google, what is the correct way to breathe in yoga?
Apparently, most of us are breathing wrongly. (O.O!! Not so instinctive after all I guess..)
Only a small part of our lung capacity is utilised, in turn depriving the body of prana.
There are a few ways of breathing:
- Belly/ diaphragmatic breathing – breathe in deeply through your belly first, followed by your lungs. Exhale from your lungs and then your belly.
- Thoracic breathing – breathe into your lungs, expanding the lungs upwards and outwards. (Mostly used in backbending poses/ anahata asanas)
- Clavicular breathing – inhaling through the upper portion of your lungs (closer to the clavicle aka collarbone), until the shoulder and collarbone moves up as well.
- Yogic breathing (one that my Teachers were looking out for!) – the amalgamation of the above #1-3 forms of breathing.
Pranayama beyond the asanas prove to be helpful in regulating mood, stress levels and prolong longevity as well. Some beginner-friendly Pranayamas to practice at your OTOT:
(Credit: VENTUNO YOGA)
1. Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing)
2. Ujjayi (ocean’s breath)
3. Brahmari (bumblebee breath)
When practices like Pranayama are performed properly, they can eradicate all diseases; but improper practice can otherwise generate diseases. — Hatha Pradipika, 2.16.
Remember to breathe, and breathe right.