Right now, bring your attention to your breath…….Ok, good!
Now take a deep inhale in…….then slowly exhale. Doesn’t that feel good? Now repeat….
Breathing is such an important part of our daily lives that we don’t even take time to notice it….it just comes naturally. Our breathing patterns are constantly changing throughout the day depending on our emotional state. When we’re feeling tense, angry, stressed, or anxious, our breathing becomes more concentrated in our chest, hence all the “huffin n’ puffin” that goes on. When we’re in a state of relaxation however, whether we’re reading a good book, in the company of those we cherish, listening to relaxing music, or just before that moment we go into a sleep state, our breathing will be more focused in our lower abdomen.
When we breathe through our upper chest, the oxygen intake is cut short, so we’re not able to relax…and think clearly. On the other hand, if we learn to breath deep into the lower part of our lungs, the lower belly, more oxygen is being taken in…hence more oxygen to the brain. Now you get the point?
When we’re born, we all breathe the correct way. Babies don’t even think about it, it just happens. It’s when we grow and start to form words and sentences that we change this pattern and become chest breathers. The goal in practicing yogic breathing is to breathe into the bottom of our lungs, THEN carry it up into our upper chest, and breathe out. So we’re able to stay focused and centered….no matter what’s going on outside of us.
There’s a breathing technique used in yoga called Ujjayi, pronounced: OO-JAH-ee, (Ocean breath). The English translation means “To become victorious” or “To gain mastery”. This particular style of breathing is said to enhance yoga practice and balance both sides of the brain as well as increase oxygen production in the body.
To create Ujjayi, first start with slow breaths, taking a deep inhale into the lower abdomen, flowing it into the upper chest, then as you begin to exhale, constrict the back of the throat…similar to the constriction made when speaking in a whisper. Therefore, it is an audible breath that is often compared to the sound of the ocean. Although there is constriction in the throat, Ujjayi breath flows in & out through the nostrils, with the lips remaining gently closed.
Some of the benefits include:
- Balancing both the left & right sides of the brain
- Keeps us in the present moment, diminished distractions and allows you to become self aware grounded
- Instills endurance in yoga practice & creates a meditative quality that maintains the rhythm of movement
- Releases tension and tight areas in the body
- Additional benefits include: Diminish pain from headaches, decreases phlegm production, & strengthening of the nervous and digestive systems
So whether you’re on or off the yoga mat, listen to & pay close attention to your breath. It will tell you a lot about how you’re feeling at the moment. Practice relaxing the muscles of the face as you breathe. I find that relaxing the face can have a domino affect on the rest of our bodies in helping to release any tension we may be holding on to at the moment.
Breathe…Relax…..and SMILE! 😀