What’s the big deal about breathing? We do it all the time, right? Yes and no.
Pranayama, or the yogic art of breath control, focuses on breathing consciously.It means treating the breath like another yoga pose. According to B.K.S. Iyangar, on e of the great living yoga masters and vital force at 91, “If you’re not breathing, it isn’t yoga.” The good news is, you don’t have to be a yogi to benefit from it.
Years of skimpy, shallow breathing take a bigger toll than you might imagine. Breathing without awareness not only affects the lungs, which with time tend to become less elastic, but also our metabolism. Other common effects of under breathing can include buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can lead to joint pain, backaches, and stiff muscles; an overall loss of vitality; and even obesity.
Deep breathing exercises the lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, liver, intestines, and diaphragm. It oxygenates the blood and improves circulation (which impacts obesity by revving up a sluggish system). Taking fewer and deeper breaths can help heal hypertension, benefit digestion, quiet the nerves, and ease wear and tear on the body. It’s not for nothing that in times of stress we’re told to take a deep breath.
Try It Yourself
Each of these simple exercises will gently introduce some of the benefits of pranayama. Remember yogic breathing is primarily done through the nose, unless otherwise stated. Also, it’s best to avoid eating for at least three hours before practicing.
- While you sit in a comfortable position, inhale deeply and slowly. Exhale at the same pace. Don’t hold your breath, simply observe it. Mentally repeat to yourself “inhaling” on the inhalation, “exhaling” on the exhalation. A great beginner exercise, breath awareness is an enormous step from breathing erratically to breathing evenly and consciously.
- For anxiety and stress, try a one-part inhalation to a three-part exhalation. Start by exhaling allof the breath and then take a long, slow, deep breath in. Now exhale the breath in three parts. Let the pause between exhalation be a comfortable one. Start with three to four repetitions.
How much further you explore after this is up to you. But whatever you do, don’t stress about it. You already know how to breathe. You’re just taking it deeper.
Courtesy of Remedes