While many people equate Yoga with just asanas and a fair bit of other athletic poses, they fail to realise that one of the most important part Yoga is breathing i.e. Yogic Breathing. Yoga is an art based on the rhythmic breathing and chanting which we hold through the poses. It is the art of synchronising that bathing and honing it in such a way that it releases our stress and tensions and we will calm.
In this day and age, this essential part of Yoga has become even more important, especially in light of the evert growing diseases like cardiovascular and nervous system disorders. These diseases have emerged in a greater way, due to the increasingly fast-paced and stressful lifestyles that one has to live in now. While one cannot do away with this lifestyle, it is definitely possible to counter and make sure that we too don’t fall prey to these diseases because of our lifestyle.
One of the best ways to that is to reprogram and improve our natural breathing through yogic training. Popularly termed as Yoga breathing, this breathing helps in reversing the harmful conditions that are aggravated by out intense lifestyles. Many cardiac experts are also advocating the use of corrective or Yoga breathing to their patients.
The benefits of practising this style of breathing are multi-faceted. The many benefits of this type of breathing include, but is not limited to- helps in releasing acute muscular tensions especially around the heart and digestive organs. It helps to overcome respiratory diseases like asthma or shortness of breath, and also increase the lung capacity.
It jells in proper nervous stimulus to the cardiovascular system and helps in reducing emotional and nervous anxieties. Through deep breathing, the body is detoxified through an increased exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
While doing yoga it is important that we learn to master the breathing, since without that it would be meaningless to practice postures if we are looking for inner peace and a counter to these diseases. There are a few techniques or breathing types which can help in regulating this process and facilitate your Yoga experience.
Before starting any of this Yogic breathing, lie down and completely let yourself go. Loosen up and relax your mind and body. Outstretch your legs and hands, and look up at the roof. Slowly and gently close your eyes let go.
Step 1: Abdominal breathing
Before you start with the breaking exercise, make sure that you observe your natural breathing. You will notice that when you inhale your stomach or abdomen tends to rise and falls when you exhale. Observe this movement for some time and check the flow.
Now start by deepening, lengthening and extending that particular movement. This basically means, that while you inhale let the abdomen rise to the maximum limit that it can and when you exhale make sure that it falls back as much as it can. Make sure your chest is still during this process and only your abdomen is moving. Continue this process for the next 20 breaths and then finally take rest.
Step 2: Thoracic (chest) breathing
After you have rested for a considerable amount of time, start again by observing your normal breathing. But, this time turn your focus to your chest. Here too, you will see that your chest is moving up and down in synch with your inhalation and exhalation.
Once you have gotten a hold of the pattern, start again by deepening, lengthening and extending that very pattern. Take deeper and more wholesome breaths and exhale as much as you can.
When you inhale, expand and live up to your rib cage, as you fill your lungs completely with air, and when you exhale, let your lungs completely fall and collapse as all the air is released. Make sure in this case your abdomen is not moving and only your chest is moving. Once again, repeat this for 20 breath cycles and then stop and rest.
Step 3: Full Yogic breathing
This is the final step which helps you to merge and perfect this breathing technique. Before we go on to explain this part, it is important to remember that while practising yoga or performing asanas, one must be mindful of their breathing and perform the proper yogic breathing. If you don’t, then the true essence of Yoga is lost and you won’t be able to experience Yoga in its truest form.
Start this technique by first filling your abdomen by inhaling, and then continue the inhaling to fill your chest. Once you have fully completely filled your abdomen and lungs, then start exhaling first from your chest and then once it falls back completely, then continue by exhaling from your abdomen. Try repeating this for 20 rounds.
While this might be hard to perfect or even do in the first place, it is imperative to keep trying and not give up. Once you perfect it, you will realise how fulfilling and uniquely refreshing this technique is. One important rule to remember is that all of the above-mentioned steps should be done without any strain. The natural tendency of people is to use effort and pressure to perfect it, but the key to this is to make sure it is smooth and effortless.
Do not rush through the process, and start off slow and easy. At first, you will not be able to do it, and face several problems while trying to do it. This is more than usual since we are not used to this kind of Yogic breathing.
If you are having too much trouble, then try to visualise your breath like a continuous flowing wave, like your breath is moving up from the navel and travelling to your throat as you inhale, and when you exhale imagine it going down from the throat to the navel.
After a while, you will be able to do it naturally without any effort. This yogic breathing is one of the basic building blocks of the powerful creating techniques found in Yoga, it is also very popularly called Pranayama.
Also published on Medium.