I think most of us forget how to breathe. To breathe properly I mean.
In our busy lives, as we rush from one place to another, from home to work, from shops to pub, the act of breathing never crosses our minds. We take it for granted. But sometimes it is worth stopping and simply “noticing” and “feeling” your breath.
Most of the time we take very shallow and very short breaths and only use the top part of our lungs. This keeps us alive obviously, but it is not the healthiest way to breathe. Taking time to slow your breath down and experience a deeper breath that fills your lungs completely from bottom to top brings more oxygen into your body. It slows your heart rate, makes you feel calmer and more energised. And it is really good for you.
Yoga offers you the opportunity to explore your breath and synchronise it with exercise. For example in the sun salutation sequence you inhale into one pose before exhaling as you move into the next one.
Breath in when you are working against gravity and breath out when you are working with it. For example inhale when pushing yourself into upward facing dog. If you’re holding a yoga pose, gently stretch a little further on the out breath.
The best part of a yoga class for noticing and feeling your breath is in the relaxation sequence at the end – known as savasana. This is where you can explore the full body yoga breath.
Lie down on your yoga mat and relax. Exhale completely and start your next in breath deep down in the bottom of your tummy near your belly button.
Feel your tummy expand and begin to fill your lungs from bottom to top.
Then allow your breath to move to the centre of your abdomen and notice how you expand out sideways.
Finally allow your chest to expand and feel your rib age open as you finish breathing in. This could take a few seconds. On my yoga training we did breathing exercises like this and on one occasion I managed to allow the in breath to take 45 seconds.
Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and then breathe out and feel the opposite sensations. Feel your chest contract. Notice how you sink slightly and allow your exhalation to flow down through the centre of the abdomen and finish deep down near your tummy button.
This is the full body yoga breath. It’s so relaxing and so restorative. Give it a try in your next class or even if you are looking to chill out a bit at home.
Some people are often tempted to cut out the relaxation phase at the end of a yoga class. Why? Because they are busy and have places to rush to and shallow breaths to take as a result. It really is worth spending those last ten minutes exploring the benefits of the full body yoga breath. The health benefits are much more important than the ten minutes you think you save.
Over to you: Do you practice the full body yoga breath? How does it make you feel? Leave a comment by clicking below where is says “leave a reply”. I would love to read your thoughts on this.