How to Breathe in Yoga Poses

Inquiry-Breath holding patterns

For the next several days I would like for you to observe your breathing pattern. You should not pressure yourself to find something. I would like for you to guide yourself in a diligent way and have patience. As often as you can, remind yourself to check in with your breathing. Notice: what is happening when you wake up; your breathing while driving, or while at work; your breathing when you’re eating. Notice how the breath changes when you talk to a person you favor and when you talk to a difficult person. Is there a difference? Notice which parts of your living place or which chores you’re doing and during which you’re holding your breath. Notice how you experience feelings and emotions. Notice how you go through memories of the past and expectations for the future with your breath. Once you experience any holding pattern, I would like for you to make a note of it. The more you notice and realize these events, the more powerful you become.

The fo

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llowing breathing techniques will help you further explore your breaths as well as yourself. We would like to give openness and patience when we’re practicing breathing techniques. As with all things, we may get frustrated at the beginning. We may not understand what we’re looking for or if we have anything to see. There is no right or wrong way to do these techniques. However, the more we can practice them effortlessly, the sooner the benefits will arise. One person may have to practice longer until breath realization happens while for others it may present fairly easy. The journey is truly important, as it helps us map every step. It helps us see people, thoughts, feelings, and events connected to the breath. It gives us the opportunity to become whole again. We never want to get discouraged by not already being there and cranking out some handstands. Trust me; these practices will be one of the most helpful exercises you’ll be doing in your yoga journey. Let openness and patience guide you throughout the practices.

Inquiry-checking in with our breath

Come to a comfortable lying position on the ground. You can place a pillow under your neck and a pillow under your lower back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Relax your knees against each other. This should take any tension out of your lower back. Take three easy and effortless breaths. Now that you are relaxed start bringing your attention onto each breath. Start observing with your inner eyes and inner ears. I invite you to contemplate on the following question: “Where do I feel my breathing?” Without any judgment, try taking mental notes. It may be hard to locate the breath at first; you may experience numbness or nothingness. But if you wait long enough, something may start to arise. You may notice your chest is rising. You may notice your belly is expanding. You may feel the cool or warm air running through the nostrils. Take several minutes to explore. Next, ask yourself “What does my breathing feel like?” This may be a strange question to ask. However, once you start tuning into your breathing, you’ll start noticing different qualities. You may feel your breathing is heavy, or you may feel your breathing is easy. You may feel some holding while exhaling. You may notice gripping between the inhalations and exhalations. You may feel smoothness between the breaths. Take several minutes to explore.

Checking in with our breath is always a good starting point to other breathing exercises. It gives us a sense of starting points so we can easily measure which practice makes a difference. It’s nice to check in before and after each yoga practice. Any changes we may detect help us better ourselves in some way.

Contemplation

Take a few moments to contemplate the following aspects of breaths. What can you discover?

• Location of the breath

• Origin of the breath

• Frequency of the breath

• Phrasing of the breath

• Texture of the breath

• Depth of the breath

• Quality of the breath.

We can sense the location of our breaths at different parts of our torso. We may feel the breath is in the belly area, the chest area, or the sides of our torsos. You may even feel your breaths in the back of your body. Exploring sensations in the latter places will be a bit more challenging, but with practice, you’ll realize these sensations. The origin of the breath can vary from person to person. One may feel that the breath starts in the belly area and then it moves to the chest area. Another may feel that it starts from the back of the body and fills the front of the body. There may be several options. If we count our breathing for a minute, in a normal state, we should be counting 12 to 14 breaths per minute. If we have fewer than 12 breaths per minute, we may breathe very slowly. If we take more than 14 breaths per minute, we may breathe at a very rapid rate. We may want to explore the phrasing of our breaths. We can see if our inhalations are equal to our exhalations. Perhaps our exhalations will be longer than our inhalations. The depth of the breaths will tell us if we feel calm or tension. If we breathe deep, we know that we’re deeply connected. If our breath is shallow, tension and anxiety will arise. Lastly, explore the quality of the breaths with kindness. It’s very like listening to a child. What is the breath trying to tell you? What words would you use to describe your breathing? Is it choppy? Is it graceful? Is it playful? Is it wild? Or suffocating? Take mental notes of any observation you may discover.

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