LEARN BREATHING — THE YOGA WAY
With the ever-increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases like cardio-vascular and nervous system disorders, the time has come for us to address this ourselves — fair and square, WITHOUT external dependence. Do you know that reprogramming your natural breathing technique would not only help in preventing these problems, but also help in the “reversal” of several such harmful conditions? Yes, it’s not only possible, but proven too. In fact, leading cardiac experts are advocating the benefits of “correct” breathing to their patients. Surprising as it is, almost none of us use the full capacity of our respiratory organs. This is aggravated by our sedentary lifestyles and leads to several complications — popularly called “lifestyle disorders”.
The first question that comes to the mind is: “How can I alter my natural breathing process?” Well, astonishing as it may seem, it’s true. By training ourselves to breathe in a particular fashion, we re-program our involuntary system to adopt this new way of breathing. This breathing technique is called the “Full Yogic breath” or simply “Yoga breathing”. Without wasting time, I’ll plunge right away into the technique followed by its overwhelming benefits.
First, lie down on your back, relaxed, with hands and legs outstretched and eyes looking up at the roof. Gently close your eyes and relax.
Step 1: Abdominal breathing
Observe your natural breath. You will notice that as you inhale the abdomen rises and then falls with exhalation. Watch this for a few moments to check this flow. Now begin to deepen, lengthen and extend that movement. That is, while inhaling, let the abdomen rise to its limit, and at exhalation, let it fall completely. Keep the chest still during this entire process; only move the abdomen. Continue this for 20 breaths, and then rest.
Step 2: Thoracic (chest) breathing.
Again observe your normal breath; this time, focusing your attention on the chest. You will notice the chest moving slightly up at inhalation and down with exhalation. Again, observe this pattern for a few moments. Now again, begin to deepen, lengthen and extend that movement. This time, on inhalation expand and lift the rib cage, filling the lungs completely. Then on exhalation, let the lungs collapse fully, sinking to the limits. In this step, keep the abdomen still, moving only the chest. Do this for 20 breath cycles and then stop.
Step 3: Full Yogic breathing.
This combines the above 2 steps in the following way: First, inhale by filling the abdomen, and then CONTINUE inhaling as you expand and fill the chest. Then, exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls, and then CONTINUE exhaling from the abdomen as it draws inwards completely. This is one round of the full yogic breath. Repeat this for 20 rounds. Remember the pattern! Inhaling — abdomen, then chest; exhaling — chest, then abdomen.
GOLDEN RULE: All of the above steps should be done WITHOUT strain. The natural tendency is to heave with effort. The right way is to make it smooth and effortless. Go slow and easy.
Initially, you will experience unevenness or bumps in this breathing process — as if there are 4 separate parts to the full yogic breath. This is natural, considering the years we have spent breathing improperly. Instead, try to picture this breath as a continuous wave like pattern — as if the breath moves up from the navel to the throat with every inhalation, and then, down from the throat to the navel with each exhalation. It may take a few weeks of practice to perfect a “SMOOTH flowing pattern with MINIMUM effort and with MAXIMUM capacity.”
This is the desired effect! Over time, the Yoga way of breathing will come naturally to you.
And now, for the all-important benefits! The full Yogic breath is the basic building block of the powerful Yoga breathing techniques, also called ‘Pranayama’ in Sanskrit, which are known for their several benefits.
However, the tangible benefits of the full Yogic breath are that:
- It releases acute and chronic muscular tensions around the heart and digestive organs.
- It helps sufferers of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema to overcome the fear of shortness of breath. It actually increases lung capacity.
- It encourages proper nervous stimulus to the cardio-vascular system.
- It dramatically reduces emotional and nervous anxiety.
- It improves detoxification through increased exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
- It amplifies the auto immune system by increased distribution of energy to the endocrine system.
- It calms the mind and integrates the mental / physical balance.
- And the real icing is that, it contributes to both vitality and relaxation through this single practice.
With such powerful all-round benefits, do you really need to be “motivated” to get going? Go ahead, and take charge of your life like never before!