I'm pretty sure you are breathing at the moment. But how? Well, in and out you may say. Yes, that is a good start. But do you notice yourself breathing? Do you know how fast you breathe? Which part of your body moves when you breathe? Do you breathe into your abdomen or your chest? Breathing matters! Although it is an automatic process for most of us some breathing awareness goes long way in improving overall wellbeing, especially our energy levels.
Pranayama is a big part of yoga and means breath awareness and control. Prana means breath, energy and life. Prana is life energy and is present in everything that is alive. It unites the body, mind and spirit and any obstructions in its flow affects all processes within our bodies. Breathing techniques are one of the best ways to bring more energy into our bodies and minds and feel more 'alive'.
There are many breathing techniques available and it is not important or necessary to learn them all. It is much more effective to practise two or three pranayama techniques only but every day.
Start with breath observation. Sit on the floor, in a chair or lie down on your back in savasana. Watch your breath without controlling it, only as a passive observer.
First and most important breath to master is Full Yoga Breath - Dirgha Pranayama. This breath uses the lungs to their full capacity and has three parts - abdominal, thoracic and clavicular breath. Proper breathing must start with the diaphragm - a big flat muscle which divides abdominal and thoracic cavities. When we breathe in the diaphragm moves down and pushes our abdomen out. If our abdomen doesn't blow out a little when we breathe in it suggests that we don't use our diaphragm properly. Incorrect posture and mental tension are main reasons for not using our diaphragm as we should.
This abdominal breath is only one part of full yoga breath. Next we need to open and widen our rib cage and, in step three, draw our breath and open the very top of our chest as well. We complete all three parts on one inhalation and exhale in the same order. Don't worry if these three stages feel a bit disjointed at first. With regular practise full yoga breath will feel like a gentle wave moving through your upper body.
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