Yoga Breathing Exercises

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Come to an easy seated position with your leg extended forward. Place both of your hands on the floor at your sides. The arms will support you while you start rolling your legs vigorously in and out. Imagine that your tension is starting to descend from the hips to the knees towards your ankles and eventually the tension will be released throughout your toes.

Now, lay down on the ground and bend the arms. The upper arms will stay on the ground, and your forearms will be lifted in the air. Relax your wrists and start shaking them vigorously. Visualize any tension of the shoulders, neck, and arms, rolling down until they disappear through the fingertips. Then relax your eyes and your face. Take three deep, full breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. Think of one of your happiest childhood memories. Don’t force remembering. Take your time. If nothing comes to mind, just create a memory out of an experience you have seen in your childhood and that you really wanted for yourself. Now I would like for you to visualize all the good feeling and happiness. You may visualize that you received a gift, for your birthday or built a treehouse with your friends, or you may have some awesome memories of a camp or a vacation place. Feel your breathing, to notice the quality of the breath. Notice how simple and easy it was to breathe in and out of the body and how vital and good you were feeling. Be with this breathing pattern for five to 10 minutes. Once you relearn how effortless breathing happens, it is easy to recall and rely on it in challenging life situations.

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Throughout the years we move away from effortless breaths to altered breathing paths. Experiencing life as an imperfect world, searching for external validation, blaming ourselves for problems sure puts lots of emotional and physical strain on our bodies which can manifest itself as altered breathing patterns. These altered breathing patterns may be chest breathing, collapsed breathing, or frozen breathing, to name a few. Chest breathing is the most evident one today. When we breathe effortlessly, we use our primary breathing muscle, which is the diaphragm. I like to refer to this type of breathing as Buddha belly breathing. Our belly on our inhalation should be nice and rounded like the Buddha’s belly. When we’re breathing only to the chest, we’re using our secondary respiratory muscles. Now, these muscles are much smaller than the diaphragm, and they get weak faster. Once the secondary respiratory muscles tighten up, we start to feel our shoulders and chests tightening up and finally our neck muscles. We go through our days forgetting how true effortless breathing feels and our new norm becomes chest breathing. Unfortunately, a tight chest and tight neck can bring on many undesired health woes, such as headaches, anxiety, depression, and restricted blood flow in the brain, which may lead to stroke.

“The heart lies right on top of the central tendinous portion of the diaphragm, and curiously each time we breathe the heart is massaged”.

Interestingly, there are more benefits to breathing when the breath is coupled with other movement practices such as yoga, tai chi, and chi gong. It has been found that when we link breath to movement, we can alleviate (and sometimes cure) migraine headaches, chronic pain conditions, hypertension, epilepsy, asthma, panic attacks, hyperventilation, and coronary heart disease.10 We may find a breath and movement connection in different exercises as well. We can link our breathing to walking, which creates a walking meditation, or after years of experience, we may be able to link breath and running and make a marathon seem like a moving meditation. Moving between different yoga poses with the breath becomes very meditative and forms a moving meditation also called Vinyasa. When we practice movements guided by breathing, we can experience optimal health. The more we do these techniques, the more we start to build a different relationship with life’s struggles. We become more grounded and centered. We can observe our problems from different angles and present solutions in a more effective way. As our minds become clearer from using deep and effortless breaths, they become calmer, and we’re able to present ourselves as lives filled with health, well-being, and a sense of inner peace.

As we go through breath awareness, breathing, and breath-movement linked techniques, we would like to be open to finding our way back to our effortless and easy breathing. It’s always good to keep in mind that we aren’t looking for another technique or pattern to learn. We would like to become aware of our present breathing patterns and ultimately free these patterns so our true effortless breathing can supply us with oxygen and Prana. When we work with awareness, we not only discover breathing patterns but also different situations when we lose our effortless breaths. When we lose effortless breathing, it’s like we lose ourselves and we start acting out of habits and reaction patterns which may not even serve us any longer. We lose our power, which is a very high price to pay.

I noticed several times when I caught myself holding my breath. The more often this happened, the more curious I got about what was really happening internally and externally. As an adult, I often caught myself holding my breath around my dad. This breathing technique may have served me well, or at least I thought it did when I was growing up. There may have been many things I didn’t want to feel, or I didn’t know how to deal while being around my dad. Therefore, I lost my power and shut it off along with my breath.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. ”

I notice that I also hold my breath when memories from the past arise which I don’t want to feel. When we allow ourselves to relive negative experiences from our past, we relive the same thought patterns along with the breathing patterns we experienced. I also noticed that my breathing patterns might alter depending on whose company I am enjoying. I may breathe shallowly while I am interacting with a person whose breathing is shallow. Or it may be the opposite; when I breathe deep and feel comfortable with a person whose breathing is very deep. The first thing to do to start bringing our breathing back to balance is observing our breathing from different points.

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