(BlackDoctor.org) — If you know how to breathe in the right way, it can encourage relaxation and a calm, and a more focused mindset that will help you throughout your entire day…no matter the situation. On the other hand, if you breathe in a shallow, constricted way, you will not get the full benefit from your life…including when you exercise.
The most important part of most exercises, particularly yoga, is breathing.
How Can I Breathe Better?
The best way to work on improving your breathing is to rest on your back. If your physical condition makes getting down to and up from the floor difficult, do this on your bed. Some people may want to roll up a blanket and place the roll behind their knees to relieve lower back strain.
1. Permit your face to point toward the ceiling; if you have a tendency for the neck to form an exaggerated arch, place a folded blanket or small pillow at the back of your head.
2. Close your eyes so your focus can remain focused on your breathing, letting the process of inhaling and exhaling move from the background to the foreground of your consciousness.
3. Place one hand on your lower abdomen, beneath your navel but above your groin.
4. Breathe deeply so your feet your hand rise and fall as it rides the wave of the inhalation followed by the exhalation.
Practice belly breathing as long as you need to until it feels natural and you notice yourself becoming calmer. Next, you will augment belly breathing with diaphragmatic breath…
5. Place one hand on either side of your body so you feel your rib cage. Your hands will move further apart and then closer together as you engage the diaphragm for the inhalation and exhalation cycle. Observe how the diaphragm portion of the breath adds a note of energy to the grounding effect of the belly breath.
6. Continue to absorb the feeling of engaging both belly and diaphragm for each breath.
7. Now place one hand between heart and collarbones. Many people do not realize that the top of the lungs peeks out over the top of the rib cage. When we fail to breath with the top of our lungs, we lose the opportunity to let the lungs gently massage the shoulders as well as the heart. So, breathe a few times using the top of the lungs.
8. Now rest both hands by your sides again, and continue to actively involve all three parts of the breath with each inhale-exhale cycle.
Do not worry if, at first, this feels odd. Most people have a lifetime of bad breathing habits and require practice to establish a new, healthier style of breathing. As you continue to practice the 3-part breath system, you will notice that you require fewer breath cycles per minute but that you are actually oxygenating the body more completely. Take some time to practice yoga breathing, and you will have a skill you can use to diffuse your tension even in very stressful situations, as well as gaining a feeling of calmness which remains with you through each day.
By Julia Bower, BDO Contributing Writer
Julia Bower is a certified yoga teacher as well as an experienced freelance writer specializing in alternative health topics. As a yoga teacher, she adaptive yoga, making yoga accessible to all people, regardless of age and body type, as well as on using yoga to heal specific mind-body health challenges. In future weeks, she will provide write more about yoga, as well as various alternative healing modalities, including herbal healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and more.