Before we delve into yogic breathing, let’s get to know about breathing in general.
Breathing is an involuntary natural process and sign of life which starts at the time of birth and goes on till the moment we die. Breathing rate in humans is controlled by the respiratory system. Its speed and depth changes according to the various activities that take place internally (digestion, sleeping etc.) and externally (walking, running, at rest etc.). For instance, when you exercise, the muscles require a high amount of oxygen to which respiratory system responds by increasing the depth and speed of breathing.
Even though breathing is an involuntary process, we are capable of holding it for a small duration of time. The cortex located inside our brain allows us to make such control of our breath. It is known as conscious or behavioral control which includes changes in breaths right before an effort or vigorous exertion. Some specific activities such as singing, speaking, playing some kind of musical instrument (such as flute, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet) involve behavioral or voluntary control of breath.
Effect of length and depth of our breaths
How long and deep breaths we take determines what kind of breathing do we engage in on regular basis. Short or shallow breaths are associated with poor breathing habit caused by unhealthy lifestyle and poor body posture. People with short breaths tend to have more health related problems and are believed to live a short life. Such people also tend to have a very shallow voice which makes their speaking disinterested for listeners.
On the other hand, people with deep breathing tend to live longer and have less health related issues. Deep breathing in itself provide health benefits such as healthy blood flow, quality sleep, relaxed mind, high concentration, well functioning of organs, high energy level etc. Since breathing deeply allows us to speak more efficiently, such people have a very deep voice which adds more to their personality.
Yoga offers several breathing techniques that on regular practice ensure to turn you into a deep breather. Yogic Breathing is a combination of 3 different breathing techniques that help one to take long breaths. It helps you to gain control over your breaths, get rid of poor breathing habits and increases oxygen intake. So before I talk about the technique of yogic breathing, let’s discuss the 3 involved techniques separately.
Base Position for all these techniques is Shavasana (Corpse Pose). Before you engage in any of these techniques, first feel your natural breath.
Become aware of your natural breath
- Lie on your back in Shavasana, close your eyes and relax the whole body.
- Observe the natural rhythm of your breath.
- Feel each and every breath moving in and out of the body.
- Sense that the breath is cool as it enters and warm as it leaves.
- Feel it coming in your nostril then passing down to the throat.
- Now move your awareness down to the chest area and feel its expansion.
- Notice the up and down movement of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale.
- Lastly become aware of complete breathing process from the nose moving down to the abdomen and vice versa. Continue the practice for a while.
Technique 1 of Yogic Breathing: Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic Breathing is the first technique involved in yogic breathing. In abdominal breathing, more emphasis is given to the movement of diaphragm rather than the ribcage. If you master to use the diaphragm in your breathing you will be able to breathe in the most effective way possible. In this kind of breathing, liver, lungs, stomach and intestines gets a good massage. Circulation of blood and its oxygen level is enhanced in abdominal breathing.
- Close your eyes and relax the body in Shavasana breathing normally.
- Place your left hand on the chest center and right hand right above the navel.
- Ensure that your chest and shoulders remain relaxed throughout the practice.
- Inhale and pull the air in your abdomen as much as you can comfortably. The abdomen will expand fully after complete inhalation.
- While inhalation the diaphragm will move downwards compressing the abdomen in both downward and outward.
- Now exhale and move all the air out of your belly compressing it towards the spine. the abdomen will be sucked in after complete exhalation.
- Exhalation will move the diaphragm upwards and abdomen inwards.
- Continue to breathe in this manner for a few minutes without forcing the breath.
- Relax after the practice, again focusing on the natural process of breathing.
Technique 2 of Yogic Breathing: Thoracic Breathing
The second technique involved in Yogic breathing is thoracic breathing. In this technique the emphasize shifts on the lung’s middle lobes made by the expansion and contraction of ribcage during the practice. More energy is expended in this process than the abdominal breathing.
- Lie down in Shavasana and close your eyes to relax the body.
- Focus your awareness on the sides your chest. This time you need to expand only your ribcage as you breathe, completely avoid using your diaphragm.
- Inhale slowly expanding your ribcage. Feel your ribs expanding upward and outward as you allow the air to move into your lungs. Inflate your chest as much as you can comfortably.
- Exhale slowly bringing the chest back into its normal position. Notice your rib cage as it shrinks and forces the air to move out of the lungs.
- Take slow and deep breaths solely through your chest. Make sure you don’t use your diaphragm in this breathing process.
- Continue this breathing technique for a few minutes. Take a pause after each inhalation and exhalation.
- Relax the body breathing normally and observe the process of natural breathing.
Technique 3 of Yogic Breathing: Clavicular Breathing
The last breathing technique involved in Yogic Breathing. You may consider it an advanced form of Thoracic Breathing. In this breathing process, the rib cage is expanded to its fullest potential.
- Practice thoracic breathing for a while or perform this technique right after practicing thoracic breathing.
- After taking an inhalation in thoracic breathing, retain the breath inside and make some effort to inhale a little more amount of air inside your lungs.
- The inhalation would be strong enough to make you feel the expansion of your ribcage in the upper part of the lungs right under the base of the neck. Your shoulders and collar bones will also slightly lift up.
- Exhale slowly after full expansion of the ribs, try to move the breath out from the upper part of your lungs and upper part of your chest. Then slowly let all the breath out completely relaxing the ribcage and bring it back to its normal position.
- Practice Clavicular breathing for as long as you can comfortably and feel its effects on the body.
- Relax after the practice and observe the pattern of natural breathing.
Yogic Breathing Technique
All 3 techniques mentioned above combine together when you practice Yogic Breathing. It is best to practice all 3 breathing techniques separately till you begin to feel comfortable in all of them. Once you become sufficiently good enough, you are ready to practice Yogic breathing. So let’s know the technique to practice yogic breathing.
- Lie in Shavasana, close your eyes and relax your body.
- Take a deep and slow breath till your abdomen fully extends.
- Keep the breath slow to the extent that you can’t hear your own breath moving in or out.
- Once you have expanded the abdomen fully, begin to fill your lungs expanding the rib cage upward and outward.
- When the ribs reach full expansion, inhale a bit more and feel expansion spreading to the base of your neck. Your shoulder and chest lift slightly as well. Rest of the body must not move.
- This whole process of inhalation must go without any pause or break in between. The breath must flow freely and continuously. You must not experience any kind of strain as you inhale.
- To exhale first move the breath out from the base of the neck and upper part of the chest. Now let the chest relax.
- Now, push the diaphragm towards the chest and in the upward direction.
- Move all the breath out of your lungs as much as you can. Let the belly suck in to push the air out of lungs completely.
- Retain the breath outside for a few seconds after exhalation.
- Repeat the whole process again for 5 – 10 times. Keep on adding one extra round each day.
- After the practice, relax your body and feel your natural breathing again.
Do not force your breath in any way. It must flow effortlessly without any strain. You must feel comfortable and should stay aware of your breath during all the breathing techniques. Over time you will gain a great control over your breath which will develop deep breathing habit after some time. Consistency in the practice is required to achieve the effects. Don’t rush to yogic breathing directly. First practice each technique separately.
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