A big part of doing yoga is the breathing. It is done in tandem with the poses and sets us up for continued practice with good coordination.
It is important to remember good breathing in yoga and to do this we apply a conscious focus. The mind oversees the body-mind-breath relationship so balancing the mind with focused breath proves beneficial.
Why We Breathe
Every cell in your body inhales the oxygen and exhales the carbon dioxide. This is the process called respiration. Breathing is important because our cells constantly need a new supply of oxygen so they can produce energy. Without this vital oxygen, cellular function is impaired, and damage or cell death is possible.
When body processes happen, carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product. The job of your lungs in this system is to provide these processes with oxygen and to get rid of the waste gas, carbon dioxide.
So not only does breathing provide your body with necessary oxygen, we see that it also rids the body of this waste carbon dioxide. To get rid of carbon dioxide, your blood delivers it to the capillaries surrounding your alveoli. In the alveoli, the carbon dioxide moves into the lungs, where it leaves the body when you exhale.
In yoga when we increase the breathing it makes sure there’s no build-up of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. This can bring about smoother functioning and also aid in reaching higher consciousness – “a yoga high”.
How We Know When To Breathe
Many times when we do yoga we get so into the poses and the actions that we forget about our breathing. It is important to keep the breathing in mind and be ‘mindful’ of the breath.
A respiratory control center at the base of your brain controls your breathing. This center sends ongoing signals down your spine and to the muscles involved in breathing. These signals ensure your breathing muscles contract (tighten) and relax regularly.
This process dictates when to breathe but with good yoga breathing we want to be focused and aware of the breathing. Since we breathe all the time it is good to keep the breath in mind.
How Often Do We Breathe?
Children tend to breathe about 20-30 times per minute. Older children and adults, when resting, usually breathe about 12-20 times per minute. So during an entire day, this can add up to 17,000-30,000 breaths total, and possibly even more. Also these numbers are just for when you are at rest.
When we do yoga we usually get into an increased breathing. This calls for focus and concentration in managing the body-mind-breath relationship.
Doing Mindful Breathing
So when we manage this situation of doing yoga breathing we want to ask what is mindfulness of breathing? The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. The inhale is one full process and the exhale is another full process. Also there is the retention of the breath after each inhale.
It is good to simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it. It may be helpful to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. The focus and concentration on breathing done through mindfulness can be a big aid in having a positive yoga experience.
Remember that the “goal” in yoga is to stay centered, to bring awareness to whatever pose you are currently in. Your breath can help you know how you are doing. Learning to listen to your breath can help you to become calm, focused, and aware in the present moment.
The Breath Is Called Prana
The role of breath is very important in the practice of yoga asanas (Yoga positions or postures).
The breath is called Prana or vital force. It is vital to our bodies and feeds and nourishes us in a constant way.
Our body requires oxygen or prana energy and this changes depending on the actions we are doing. If we exercise then more oxygen is required and the breathing becomes faster and can be forceful. If we are relaxed then the need for vital energy is lower and the breathing can become more relaxed.
Do Deep Breathing
When we are relaxed then the breathing is more calm and can be deeper. When we experience deeper breathing we appreciate the calm and can find peace. This tends to calm the mind also and we remember that mental activities can affect the breathing.
Breath awareness helps us to manage any emotional disturbances and makes the prana or energy flow freely.
Yoga tells us that smooth, relaxed awareness of inhalation and exhalation during practice is what we want. In this way the mind is focused and the awareness can be concentrated on the positive thoughts.
Finding Breath Awareness
Focus on breath while making movements also helps in controlling the movements, which reduces the chance of injury. The muscles work in a systematic way with greater coordination with the nervous system.
So for physical and mental functions, breath is very important. In Yoga practice, we integrate focus on breath during slow movements as well as while maintaining asanas or yoga positions.
Generally every yoga session should have a positive resolve. This can be for better physical or mental health or any other purpose.
When we focus on the breath and do it in conjunction with the poses (asanas) we get a whole practice that is good for the body, mind and spirit. With each in-breath we breathe fresh newness into the body system and with each exhale out-breath we relax and discharge the carbon dioxide waste that we don’t really want. Yoga breathing is very good for cleaning the body and also raising the consciousness.
Benefits of Yoga Breathing
Yoga breathing is good for so many things. Proper yoga breathing will coordinate the practice and fill the yogi with balance and wholeness.
But breath management is also good for other things. Some yogis use breath management to harness the breath and calm it down.
When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady.
As your breath slows down and calms, so does your heart. Also by calming the breath it is often possible to calm the mind and thoughts.
Yoga breathing exercises work in a similar way to meditation in calming and clearing your mind and bringing a feeling of relaxation to your entire body.
Yoga Breathing And Health
The managing of breath (prana) in yoga is called pranayama. This term actually means ‘breath control’.
It is said in the yoga science that pranayama cleanses 72,000 nadis or channels of energy in the body. This helps purify the blood and the respiratory system.
The deeper breathing enriches the blood with oxygen. A large amount of the oxygen goes to the brain, lungs, heart, and capillaries. The pranayama breathing can help regulate and clean all these body parts and bring about strong health and fitness – both mental and physical.
There are several benefits to good yoga breathing:
- Your muscles relax and it is difficult to maintain a lot of physical tension when you are breathing properly.
- Oxygen delivery improves.
- Your blood pressure lowers.
- Endorphins are released.
- Detoxification improves.
The yoga breathing as we have seen is recommended because it coordinates the yoga practice and has many additional benefits as well. It does many good things like strengthen the lungs and muscles, calms the heart and mind, purifies the blood and can also aid in preventing wandering thoughts.
Yoga breathing can help you stay focused and keep your body and mind both positive and practicing higher awareness. As we have said it is also good to lead to meditation, so remember to do yoga breathing!
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