Most people never think about the way they breathe. It is something that happens as a natural reflex and doesn’t require thought. But, when you do need to concentrate on it, such as during your first yoga class or while working out, that’s when flaws in your breathing style can become easy to detect. Have you ever tried to take a deep breath and found yourself yawning afterward due to lack of oxygen? Or do you ever have trouble focusing on yoga poses and correct breathing at the same time? If so, you’re not alone. Not only do most of us neglect to think about the way we breathe, but we are also most likely in the habit of breathing improperly. To enhance your yoga practice and improve your physical health and emotional well-being, learning to give your body the oxygen it needs should be your very first step. Here’s how:
1. Identify incorrect breathing.
Most people breathe quickly and do not inhale all the way. This is called shallow breathing. If you find yourself breathing fast, raising your shoulders as you breathe, and not letting your stomach expand, you could be breathing incorrectly. When you breathe the right way, your stomach, diaphragm, and ribcage fill with air and visibly expand.
2. Warm up.
Before you learn how to breathe the right way, take some time to warm up your body first. This will relax your muscles and allow the breath to enter the body more fluidly. Don’t exercise to the point that you’re out of breath, though. If you do, wait until your breathing has stabilized.
3. Pick your posture.
You can either stand with your back straight and knees slightly bent or sit cross-legged with a straight back. Put your shoulders back and let your chest lift. Relax your arms and put them on your waist or fold them gently in your lap.
Inhaling slowly through your nose, let air pass into your diaphragm and fill your stomach. You should feel like your stomach is expanding like a balloon. Inhale for about five seconds, or until you feel you have taken a full breath. Never force yourself to take a deeper breath than feels natural. The point is to train your body to take slower, better breaths, not to breathe so deep that it hurts. You have to practice a bit until you find the length of breath that feels good for you.
Exhale through your mouth, not your nose. Make sure to exhale slowly, in about the amount of time you took to inhale (this can vary, though, with inhaling and exhaling taking different amounts of time for different people). Keep breathing out until you have exhaled fully.
Try this sequence several times a week, and practice regular yoga, and you should see vast improvements in the quality of your breath.