Apr 28

Breathing Exercises in Yoga or Pranayama


Breathing exercises are an integral part of yoga practice. Proper breathing is essential to perform most of the yoga poses or asanas. A yoga session starts out with breathing exercises to calm the body and the mind. In yoga, the first thing that practitioners are taught is proper breathing. We were taught to breath the same way an innocent baby breathes — inhale deeply and expand your stomach, exhale slowly which should contract the stomach. As we progress, you will note that some poses are similar to what we usually see babies and children do — proof that some yoga poses were intrinsically known by the human body to be beneficial to its well being. While the body ages and we begin to experience stress, we forget that instinctive exercise and develop other habits that become less beneficial to us.

We usually start out with the 3-part breath (Dirga Pranayama) where the exercises teach the filling and emptying of the lungs. This is followed by the Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Sodhana). In Nadi Sodhana, the nostrils are alternately closed off from air, allowing only the other nostril to inhale and exhale. This brings balance by clearing the energy channels on both sides of the body and is known to be beneficial for those suffering from different forms of allergies such as asthma. As a matter of fact, apart from my scoliosis, it is my asthma that I look to find relief for by doing regular yoga exercises.

Once you have mastered the art of breathing with yoga, you will find that proper breathing will become a habit and will help in minimizing stress levels. There are other more complicated breathing exercises that I have not mastered such as the Ocean Breath and the Skull Shining Breath. These will require more guidance from a yoga teacher since they may sometimes cause you to become lightheaded if done incorrectly. Both these exercises provide benefits for respiratory ailments and give the lungs more strength.

My next yoga post will now focus on asanas and their benefits. Watch out for it.

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