It is possible to breathe away stress. Breathing is so automatic that most of us don’t give it much thought. Take a moment right now to observe your breath. Is it fast, slow, deep, or shallow? Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth?
In times of stress our breathing becomes especially shallow and restricted, leading to poor oxygenation of our blood, anxiety, mental sluggishness, toxin build up and a host of other symptoms. When we breath deeply, we can fill our blood with oxygen and encourage our whole nervous system to relax. And that is the tip of the iceberg. The benefits of yogic breathing include:
• Increased lung capacity
• Increased metabolism (great for weight management)
• Improved posture
• Reduced tension and anxiety
• Strengthened immune system
• Toned abdominal muscles
Just watch a baby to get a sense of how natural, deep, and full our breath is meant to be. Babies seem to breathe with their whole bodies. With some practice you can return to full deep nourishing breathing too.
Of course, if you have problems with your lungs, such as asthma, or heart disease, consult your physician before attempting yogic breathing or any type of breathing exercises. It is always best to be safe.
Full Yogic Breathing - The Details
Yogic breathing is usually done through the nose, during both inhalation and exhalation. This allows the air to be warmed and filtered, and breathing to be slowed. With yogic breathing, your breath should expand your abdomen and your chest, not just one or the other. You breathe much deeper than usual, which brings more oxygen into your system and may cause you to become dizzy or lightheaded. If this happens just rest for a few minutes until the feeling subsides.
1. When you are beginning it is easiest to practice full yogic breathing lying on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent. If your neck is uncomfortable, rest your head on a pillow. Place your hands on your torso.
2. Inhale through the nose as you expand your abdomen, then your ribs, and then your chest.
3. Pause for a few seconds at the top of your inhale.
4. Exhale from your chest, then your ribs and then your abdomen, drawing your abdomen in at the end of your exhale.
5. Pause for a few seconds at the bottom of your exhale.
6. Repeat this process several times then let your breath return to normal and take a few minutes to observe how you feel.
Work to keep your breathing smooth and steady throughout the full yogic breathing cycle. As you continue, try to lengthen your exhale, making it noticeably longer than your inhale. This is extremely soothing to your nervous system. Once you feel comfortable with this breathing lying down, try it while sitting up and the next time you are feeling stressed take a few minutes for some full deep yogic breathing and notice how much calmer you feel.