When you come to our yoga classes, you’ll hear the teacher cueing the breath. For example, you may hear, “inhale extend arms overhead, exhale fold forward…” You may be tempted to ignore the cues, especially when focusing on the physical alignment of a posture, but next time try to follow along!
The breath is a vital part of the yoga practice and carries over off the mat as well. Despite breathing automatically throughout the day, during yoga class, this may be the first time you are intentionally focusing on the breath.
Working with the breath is called Pranayama.
The breath helps carry you deeper into a pose but also allows you to turn attention inward. Many people experience a calm and vitality after a yoga class, and this is because they just spent 60 minutes tuned into the breath!
Next time you catch yourself caught up in thoughts, worry, or nervousness, remember your yoga breath. Take full deep inhales and full deep exhales.
One Pranayama exercise to try is the 3 Part Breath. You can practice this technique at any time and anywhere. Just find a quiet place to either sit quietly or lay down.
The 3 Part Breath*:
*as with any breathing practice, if you have any medical concerns consult your doctor first.
Begin by placing your hands on your belly and just concentrate the breath here. Feel the belly rise into the hands with each inhale, and fall with each exhale. Stay here for a few rounds of breath.
Next, cup your side body with the hands and focus the breath here. With the inhale, feel the ribs expand into the hands, and with each exhale feel the ribs return to center. Stay here for a few rounds of breath.
Now, place your hands on your upper chest just below your collarbone. Breathe into this part of the body. Feel the collarbone rise and spread with the inhale and fall with the exhale. Breathe here for a few rounds of breath.
Last, bring all 3 parts of the breath together. Keep one hand on the heart and place the other hand on the belly. Inhale deeply – filling from the belly, through the ribs, and then the chest. Exhale completely – emptying from the chest, ribs, and belly. Notice the breath like a wave over the body.
Practice this technique for at least 5 minutes.
Allow yourself to experience the breath.