Learning To Breathe

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Breathing is automatic, so we don’t pay much attention to it, it just happens. Becoming more aware of our breath can offer a few significant health benefits. When we aren’t aware of our breath we tend to automatically shallow breathe from the chest. When we are under stress, breathing improperly can create more physical tension, stress and anxiety.

In Yoga, breathing exercises are called Pranayama, which means breath control. They are used to help keep you calm and grounded no matter what life throws at you. Breathe before you react!

Breath work can help us focus, calm a racing mind and create mental clarity to make better decisions. It can also help to calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety and insomnia. Plus it aids in detox and certain breathing techniques even help to tone the abdominals!

The Key to Good Breathing Technique

  • The key to good technique is learning how to breath from your diaphragm, which is the major muscle of respiration, located below the lungs.
  • We want to focus on letting the breath come from the lowest place in your belly and taking long, slow inhales and exhales.

When Should You Do These Exercises

  • Ideally making this a daily practice, but life gets busy so use these exercises as tools to help you when life gets hectic.
  • We are always thinking of a million things at once, so focusing on the simplicity of the inhale and exhale allows you to focus on one thing, clearing the mind.
  • If you find yourself waking up overwhelmed take 5 minutes in the morning to sit quietly and focus on your breath. It’s a great way to set the tone for a calmer, more focused day.
  • If you have trouble turning the mind off before bed, same thing, sit quietly and just focus on the breath to help you slow down and unwind from the day. You can also do this lying in bed on your right side, which puts your body into rest mode.

6 Breathing Exercises to Keep You Calm and Collected

  1. BELLY + CHEST BREATH

HOW TO:

CHEST:

  1. Place your right hand onto your chest and inhale into your hands. Exhale slowly.

RIBS

  1. Place hands onto the ribs and inhale into your hands. Feel the ribs expanding. Exhale slowly.

CHEST + RIB

  1. Place right hand onto your chest and left hand onto your ribcage, breath into your right hand and now your left. Pause, hold the breath and slowly exhale.

BELLY

  1. Place hands onto your belly. Inhale into your hands and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Exhale slowly.

COMBINE CHEST + BELLY 5 COUNT

  1. Place one hand on the belly and one on the chest.
  2. Breath into the belly for 5
  3. Breath into the chest for 5
  4. Breath into the belly then continue to breath into the chest for 5, pause hold the breath for 5, exhale as one unit chest and belly, slowly for 5.
  5. Repeat as many times as you like. You can alternate where the breath starts, chest first then belly or belly then chest.

BENEFITS:

  1. Simple exercise to start to create awareness to the breath and learning the difference between a chest and belly breath.
  2. Helps to increase breath volume.
  3. Helps to clear the mind, create mental clarity.
  4. Creates sense of calm + relaxation
  5. Helps to ground your energy if you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

2. UJJAYI BREATH

Ujjayi means to breath of victory!

HOW TO:

  1. Sit up tall, take an inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth making a “ha” sound repeat a few times.
  2. Inhale through the nose and repeat the same exhale making a “ha” sound but keep the mouth closed. Start to breathe in and out, through the nose, with a slight constriction at the back of the throat — creating an ocean like sound or like Darth Vader!

BENEFITS:

  1. Heat building breath, creates internal heat in the body helps to promote detoxification of the internal organs.
  2. Traditional Yoga breath, used commonly in a Vinyasa practice where we are combining breath with movement.
  3. Creates energy
  4. Improves concentration, brings calmness to the mind and body.
  5. Help to boost the immune and digestive system.

3. KHAPALBHATI

  1. The literal translation of Khapalbhati is skull shining.
  2. Kapal means skull and bhati means to shine or illuminate.
  3. This comes from one of the 6 purification methods from Hatha Yoga.
  4. *Practice on empty stomach

HOW TO:

  1. The focus of this breathing technique is on the exhale, will automatically create inhale responses.
  2. Come to sit tall.
  3. Place a hand on the belly to create awareness to the exhale.
  4. Take a full inhale, release halfway and then begin by contracting the low belly with short, powerful, bursts of exhales, through the nose.

This is an energetic practice of the abdominals and a method of detoxification, the less food in the stomach the better. Otherwise can just be really uncomfortable, it’s like doing crunches right after a big meal!

BENEFITS:

  • Tones the abdominals.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Helps to clear sinus congestion and mucus.
  • Improves blood circulation, stimulates digestion.
  • Creates energy.
  1. NADI SHODHANA

Nadi means flow or channel Shodhana means purification.

HOW TO:

  1. Sit up tall.
  2. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest in your palm. Thumb and ring finger are free.
  3. Close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale 4, exhale 8.
  4. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger.
  5. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle.
  6. Repeat 3 to 5 times, and go back to normal breathing.

BENEFITS:

  • Helps to balance right and left sides of our brain.
  • Depending which nostril feels blocked will determine the imbalance in the body.
  • If your right side blocked means you may be tired and have low energy, focusing on just the right side can help increase energy.
  • Left helps to calm you down when we feel chaotic, overwhelmed and have trouble falling asleep.

5. UDDIYANA BANDHA 

  • Uddiyana means upward and bandha means binding.
  • This is another one that you want to practice on an empty stomach to gain the most benefits
  • When our body is in digestion mode it changes gears to focus on digestion not detox.
  • These are cleansing practices, and many of our vital detox organs are located in our abdominal area.

HOW TO:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly apart, torso rounded forward, knees bent, hands resting on your knees.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale quickly and with force, also through your nose Contract your abdominal muscles fully to push as much air as possible out of your lungs.
  3. Then relax your abdominals.
  4. Expand your rib cage as if you were inhaling, but don’t actually inhale, this draws the abdominal muscles in and hollows the belly.
  5. Hold the bandhas for five to 15 seconds. Then slowly release the abdominals and inhale normally. Perform three to 10 rounds.

BENEFITS:

  1. Tones the abdominals.
  2. Stimulates detox
  3. Purifies the lungs.
  4. Stimulates blood flow to the brain, mental focus.
  1. COOLING BREATH

HOW TO:

  • Part your lips slightly and curl your tongue up so it’s resting behind your top teeth.
  • Breathe in slowly through your slightly open mouth.
  • Hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through your nose.
  • Repeat this until you feel cool, calm and collected.

BENEFITS:

  • Used for times when you feel irritated or hot and bothered and you need to calm down or chill out.
  • Also good for when you feel hot, think of this as a the same way dogs pant to cool themselves down