Being conscious of your breath can be incredibly helpful for your yoga practice and can help ease anxiety and stress. Breathing is essential to life (obviously Anna) but I have found that breathing takes much more practice and consciousness than I had previously thought. Pay attention to your breathing for the next few minutes. If you are like most of us your inhales and exhales are shallow. Stress and anxiety can contribute to shallow breathing especially if you aren’t particularly conscious of your breathing habits.
Healthy breathing techniques can send the brain and organs more oxygen improving their functions and aligning your body and mind. If you prefer power yoga, healthy breathing is key to stamina throughout class and getting blood to your muscles. If you’re more into yin and restorative yoga healthy breathing is critical for relaxation of the mind and body.
Two of my favorite breathing exercises are box breathing (Sama Vritti Pranayama) and three part breathing (Dirga Pranayama). I have found that these breathing techniques can center the mind and body whether you are doing yoga or not so don’t hesitate to use them when you are feeling tense, stressed, anxious, or scattered.
Box Breathing (Sama Vritti Pranayama):
Box breathing consists of 4 steps:
1.) Take a deep inhale (count 1…2…3…4…)
2.) Hold your inhale at the top (count 1…2…3…4…)
3.) Exhale slowly (count 1…2…3…4…)
4.) Hold at the bottom (count 1…2…3…4…)
Continue this pattern for 8 rounds. The idea here is to bring consciousness to your breathing. Try to make you inhales and exhales the same length. Fill your lungs all the way, then empty your lungs all the way. Continue this pattern for 8 rounds and check in with your body and mind to see how you feel.
Three Part Breathing (Dirga Pranayama)
Three part breathing consists of taking deep inhales (filling up 3 parts of your body- belly, rib cage, chest) and deep exhales (emptying 3 parts). Three part breathing is great for meditation, bring calmness to the mind and body, and filling your body with oxygen.
1.) Take deep inhales and exhales through your nose filling and emptying your belly each time (on exhales draw your belly button in to your spine to completely empty your stomach). 3-5 breaths here.
2.) Continue this pattern but begin to add in your rib cage. Bring consciousness to filling up your belly and rib cage on your inhales and emptying your belly and rib cage on your exhales. 3 breaths here.
3.) On your next inhale take one more sip of air allowing the chest to fill up with air (think all the way up to your collarbone) allowing your chest to expand and rise.
4.) On your exhale, begin by emptying the chest allowing the chest to sink, then empty the rib cage, and finally the belly.
Continue this pattern as long as you like. Dwell in the calm of your mind and body taking the time to allow yourself to relax and be.
I hope these may be helpful to some of you! I would love for readers to send me notes of different breathing techniques they have found helpful as well!
This is not medical advice. This is simply ways I have found breathing practices to be helpful for me. Always consult a medical professional for advice on breathing techniques.