Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Did you know that you take approximately 21,000 breaths a day? The act of breathing reminds us that we are living beings, that we are alive. The breath is our life source as well as a conduit to our internal state of being. Through the breath we live, and through the breath we can also heal.
In our yoga practice there are two pieces to breath work. First there is what we might call breath training, or understanding breath. Secondly there is pranayama, or breathing exercises, we do to strengthen and practice the regulation of our breath.
The Benefits of Breathing Properly
The benefits of breath training and practicing pranayama include:
- Relieving stress by activating our relaxation response
- Releasing muscle tension and mild muscle pain through the release of endorphins
- Better blood flow as increased oxygen levels help dilate blood vessels
- Detoxification of the body
- Increasing self-awareness and regulation of our physical body, our emotions and our thoughts
Breath training in our practice starts very simply with just being aware of our breath. Noticing. We begin to place focus on the nourishing, filling up of the inhale and the cleansing, letting go quality of the exhale. We can also begin to notice the movement of the breath in the body.
The Mechanics of Breath
Once we have learned to be aware of the breath we can begin to focus more deeply on the actual mechanics of breath and the movement of the diaphragm as it relates to breathing. As we inhale the diaphragm contracts downward and the lungs fill. As we exhale the diaphragm relaxes upward and the lungs empty. One of the ways we can practice breathing mechanics is through Belly Breathing. (Listen to the link below)
After we have mastered the basic mechanics of breath we are able to connect more awareness to flow between the inhale and the exhale. We connect to the rhythm of our breath. As our mind takes in this flow of breath we begin to relax and find more ease in the breath and in our bodies.
Back to Basics
There are many techniques and breathing exercises we can learn and practice. Start with the basics and begin with just 5 minutes a day of practicing the mechanics, connecting to the rhythm of your breath and then quietly sitting with a focus on the inhale and exhale.
I have attached here a 5-minute beginners audio for Belly Breath. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. In the beginning you can breathe in through the nose and exhale softly through an open mouth. As your practice strengthens, try to breath in and out through the nose using the nose as a passageway and pulling the air in and out through the throat.
Enjoy and Namaste!