Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Breathing from the Core

Inhaling and exhaling effect our entire being in some very profound ways.  From improving heart function to increasing metabolism, all cells in the body ultimately benefit from deep, rhythmic breathing.  Without the life giving nutrients that is delivered to all areas of our body as we breathe we would quickly die, therefore it is important to fully understand the life giving nature of breath and how profoundly it can affect our over all state of being.

I consider myself fortunate to have found yoga through a teacher who centralized breath in his practice.  For the first 6 months all we did together was study breathing mechanics and use fluid simple poses that strengthened the muscles that support breathing.  By the time I was done, my breath was the central core of my yoga practice.  If I wanted to explore new asanas, I would only do so if my breath allowed it, not the other way around.  No movement would happen without a direct connection and focus on my breath.  The result was a profound sense of how important breathe is in yoga, and in life, and also a tremendous sense of safety at never extending beyond agreeable limits for my body.

Yet perhaps one of the most amazing things about breathing is our ability to have it on auto-pilot or control it.  The two different parts of your body that control those things benefit from being synchronized by rhythm and pace.  Breathing longer, slower, shorter, faster all produces very noticeable effects and also helps to oxygenate your blood, providing vital chi or prana to the body.

Breathing also connects us to something greater, quite literally. 


Begin practice by sitting in Vajrasana (other options are cross legged or on your back with your legs up on a chair if you have back issues)

Three Part Breath

Part 1: Belly
-Place your hands on your belly and slowly beginning breathing in and out of the nose
-Use only your diaphragm and belly muscles to inhale and exhale, allow your belly to push outwards as you breathe in
-Do 3 sets of 10 long, deep breaths, and on the final breath, hold it in and relax your upper body.
-Count to 3, then exhale and take a child's pose between sets.

Part 2: Mid-Chest
-Inhale by stretching your rib cage apart, then using your hands to press your rib cage together
-Should feel like the sides of your rib cage are moving outward to the left and right
-3 sets of 10
-Inhale and hold on the last breath of each set, then child's pose

Part 3: Upper-Chest / Shoulders
-Then go to shoulders, and inhale by lifting shoulders up, exhale by letting them drop
-Dropping the shoulders while exhaling helps loosen tension in upper torso
-3 sets of 10
-Inhale and hold on the last breath of each set, then child's pose

Part 4: Wave Breath (all together)
-Finally, link all three together - Belly, mid-chest, shoulders, inhale and exhale in the same order
-3 sets of 10
-Inhale and hold on the last breath of each set, then child's pose

By now your breath should be warm and ready to use for more asana!

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