Breathing is one constant thing that we continuously do. Without breath, there simply is no life!
How we feel in our body and mind affects our breathing – this happens even without us taking notice. Depending on our mood or our overall condition, our breathing pattern becomes heavy, shallow, or even restricted.
Our breathing is our life energy – the prana, flowing into our bodies. Its pattern affects how our bodies are energised, relaxed, or freed from any stressors. Breathing technique or pattern helps determine how we charge our body and mind. It affects how we let our life energy flow within our entire being. And amazingly, it helps in our healing. It helps put things into perspective. It helps us in being in the moment.
Thus, correct techniques are important in the practice of yoga. It helps with the healing process. Proper breathing helps calm our mind and allows for the proper flow of movement. It helps release our blockages. It helps us focus on our movements, and allows us to listen to our body more.
Yoga and breathing come together hand in hand. This differentiates yoga from other wellness and fitness practices. The breathing exercises in yoga are called Pranayama. These practices help release the blockages in our body so that we can breathe freely and our life energy can also flow properly. With regular and sustained practice, you can eventually feel that you are boosting the vitality of your whole body!
Here are some tips on how to tune into your natural three-stage breath.
Nose breathing is important. Although there are some shorter yoga practices where we intentionally breathe in or out through the mouth, generally we want to breathe in and out through the nostrils. There is a range of benefits from inhaling through the nostrils including:
- filtering and warming the air
- as you breathe in through the nose the air accelerates and goes deeper into the lungs (expand)
- promoting abdominal breathing and balancing the energy (or prana) that governs the head, neck, and throat regions
When we exhale through the nostrils, we moisten and warm the nostrils in preparation for the next in-breath.
Abdominal breathing in a reclining position
Come into a reclining position, making sure you are comfortable:
- Bring your hands to the abdomen. Use props under the elbows if you need this support to be comfortable and release tension from the shoulders or arms.
- Breathe fully into the lower lobes of the lungs and feel the abdomen lifting the hands. As you exhale, empty the lower lobes fully and feel the natural movement of the abdomen and hands down. Explore the movement of the breath in the abdomen as the hands move up and down with the breath.
Natural Three-stage breathing
Once you are comfortable with abdominal breathing, start tuning into the natural three-stage breath sequence by:
- Breathing first into the lower lobes (abdominal breathing)
- then the mid lobe (thoracic breathing) and
- then the upper lobes (clavicular breathing) and
- then bring it all together in the natural three-stage breath.
The in-breath is primarily for energising and expanding. The out-breath is for releasing and grounding.
Option – Adding an intention
- Once you are comfortable with the practice of tuning into natural three-stage breathing, you can use the practice to activate an intention with the breath, for example, nurturing, healing, strengthening in-breath and releasing, grounding out-breath.
- If you tend to be more of a visual person, you may like to visualise prana in the form of light, whether it is golden, white, or any colour that resonates with you. You can use the power of your attention to adding a ‘feeling intention’ as you breathe.
Remember that to experience its full benefits, a regular practice should be maintained!