YOGA AND BREATHING
A simple guide on how to breathe when practicing yoga
‘I never know how to breathe during Yoga’.
I’ve heard this so many times, and I’m sure my fellow Yoga teachers have as well. So here’s a simple guide to inhaling and exhaling your way through Yoga asanas.
No. 1: BREATHE! The worst thing you can do during your yoga practice is to hold your breath, if not specifically instructed to. Your body may feel discomfort or stress at being in a position it’s not familiar with. Our automatic instinct is to hold our breath when we’re tense. But this reinforces the physical discomfort. So teach yourself to bring your awareness to your breathing as much as your body. Your breath helps your body to relax in poses.
No. 2: When you’re expanding your body, INHALE:
Many yoga postures create expansion in our torso/chest giving the lungs more space. The general rule of thumb is to inhale while doing this. Some common postures where you would do this are Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vrikshasana (Tree Pose), Veerbhadrasana (Warrior Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Bhujhangasana (Cobra Pose), etc.
Notice how the chest is lifted in these poses, creating space between the ribs. There’s more room for the chest cavity to expand and the body’s natural inclination should be to breathe in. Just like when we yawn.
No. 3: When you’re bending or compressing your body, EXHALE:
Several yoga postures require us to fold or twist the body. Try to exhale while doing this. Some common postures where you would do this are Padahasthasana (Hands to Feet Pose/Standing Forward Bend), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Naukasana (Boat Pose), Ardha Matsyendrasna (Half Spinal Twise), etc.
See how the lungs have less room here. The physical compression of space guides the way to an exhalation.
No. 4: When breathing in Yoga, the magic is in the Exhalation: Too often, we focus on just the inhalation, whereas the trick to breathing like a Yoga pro lies in the quality of our exhalation. To begin with, try and make your exhale at least as long as your inhale. A long and even exhalation will help you rid your lungs of all the stale air more effectively than a short and shallow out-breath. The better you exhale, the better your next inhalation will be.
Finally, if you’re new to yoga, when it comes to breathing, just do what feels natural to your body. Just don’t forget Point No. 1. BREATHE!