How To Breath in Yoga
All forms of yoga have a strong focus on breathing and breath control; it is one of the foundations of effective yoga practice. In power yoga, it is used as a link between poses and a source of the power that fuels the movement from one pose to another. All breathing in power yoga is done only through the nose – both inhaling and exhaling. Breathing through the nose is the most efficient way to get oxygen from the breath into the lungs and then in turn, into the blood stream, which delivers it to the cells.
Breathing in through the nose is universally accepted as healthier than breathing in through the mouth for two main reasons:
The nose is lined with tiny hairs called cilia that filter impurities from the air inhaled as it enters the body. This helps to protect the lungs and the rest of the body from a wide variety of unwanted particles
The nose provides the first “treatment” of the air coming into the body by warming air that is cold, and cooling air that is too warm
Although teachers of many forms of exercise, including dance, martial arts and aerobics teach students to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, exhaling through the nose gives the body a second opportunity to retrieve oxygen from the out breath. This means more oxygen for the body for every breath inhaled and exhaled. Exhaling through the nose means the lungs are working more efficiently and effectively.
Apart from ensuring that the body is receiving plenty of oxygen during the exercise, the breathing in power yoga also provides an important point of focus. By concentrating fully on the breath going in and the breath going out, the practitioner is able to remain fully focused and in the moment; which allows for more effective practice. The breaths are deep, controlled and steady with specific points for inhaling and exhaling.
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The type of nose breathing that is used for power yoga is called ujjayi or “ocean breath”. The description “ocean breath” refers to the sound made during both inhaling and exhaling. It is produced by breathing deeply in the throat rather than just sniffing through the nose. Think “Darth Vader”! If you take a moment to breathe in and out through your nose, slightly constricting the back of your throat, and pulling the air through it, and making the sound of a “heavy breather” or Darth Vader, you will find the right technique. These are long, slow, deep breaths in and out.
This ocean breath style of breathing increases the body’s internal heat and helps to purify the body. In addition to this, the fact that the breath is audible means that it provides a strong point of distraction for the conscious mind. By listening to your “Darth Vader” breathing, your mind will be distracted from thinking of anything outside of the moment. This means you leave all worries and concerns outside of the class; it also helps to prevent any negative thoughts about the exercise itself. With the audible breath pulling your mind’s focus, you are able to perform a far more effective power yoga session.
Generally speaking, in power yoga you will be breathing out as you move into a posture, and then inhaling as you move out of that posture. Unlike other forms of yoga, in power yoga very little time is spent holding each pose, this means the movement is constant and fluid; and the breathing is therefore constant and fluid to match it. There are some occasions where a posture is held for a short period of time; and this is usually timed by breaths – for example, holding the posture for five breaths will mean you are holding that position while continuing to breathe in and out at the same pace you have been breathing while moving, before then moving again to the next position.
Throughout power yoga routines you will find that you will be breathing in whenever you are going against gravity and breathing out whenever you are going with gravity. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, creating slight friction at the back of your throat by closing it off slightly and creating the sound of the ocean breath (or Darth Vader), fill your diaphragm from the bottom and allow your chest to expand as you breathe in at a steady, slow pace. Breathing slowly lowers the heart rate and enables the lungs to absorb more of the oxygen from the air you inhale.
On the exhale, allow the air to escape at a slow and steady pace through your nose, again through the slight restriction in your throat that creates the whooshing sound, and allow your chest to contract as the air leaves through your nose. It is a good idea to spend a bit of time practicing this form of breathing outside of the yoga sessions so that you can become comfortable with it. Becoming comfortable with the ujjayi breath way of breathing will give you a head start in your power yoga sessions since it will become natural and automatic.