Breathing is the first activity you perform when you are born and the last thing you do prior to passing away. The essence of life, breathing also takes a central part in Yoga. In fact, no other exercise form recognizes breathing as much as Yoga does.
The ancient text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, states that: “Respiration being disturbed, the mind becomes disturbed. By restraining respiration, the Yogi attains steadiness of the mind.” As a living energy, it transforms your mind and body. As a bridge to our nervous system, conscious breathing encourages conscious, active living— a Yoga objective.
Practice Abdominal Breathing
As you observe your natural breath, notice your abdomen rising and falling. Watch the flow for a few moments. Then begin to deepen your breath. See your abdomen rise to the top of its capacity and then feel it completely fall with each exhalation. Move the abdomen only. Keep the chest still. Do this for 20 breaths.
Practice Chest Breathing
Again, observe your natural breathing process but this time, focus on the chest. Watch these slight up and down chest movements for a few minutes. Then, start to deepen your breaths. When you inhale, expand and lift the ribs filling the lungs with air. When you exhale, allow the lungs to fully collapse. Keep the abdomen motionless while the chest moves through 20 breath cycles.
Combine the Two
After you fill the abdomen with air, fill the chest. Exhale, the opposite way—empty the chest first and continue exhaling from the abdomen. You will feel it move inward. Do this complete cycle 10 times. A good way to picture this is like the pattern of a wave. At inhalation, the breath moves from the navel to the throat. At exhalation, it moves from the throat to the navel. It may take a while to get used to this but if you stay with it, you will eventually be performing this smooth breathing practice with a minimum of effort.
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(Pic from Lands of Wisdom.com)