When I took the plunge and joined a yoga class at my gym, I knew I’d improve my flexibility and build muscle. I never expected to learn new breathing techniques. In each class, my instructor reminds us to focus on our respiratory rhythm so we can relax into the poses, stretch further, and get a full physical exchange for the oxygen we inhale into our lungs. How you breathe sets the tone for your yoga workout.
Kate Holcombe, a yoga therapist, says controlled breathing can reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain, promote restful sleep, increase attention, and improve the person’s overall well-being. So, mastering this yoga essential can only improve your day-to-day life.
How to Properly Inhale
Before moving into a pose, complete a long, deep inhalation. You can do this through your nose or mouth, but focus on filling your whole body with fresh oxygen.
Instead of your usual shallow chest breathing, fill your belly. This allows you to take longer breaths to the capacity of your diaphragm. You should see your stomach rise as you breath in deep and slow, for a count of four or five seconds. At the end of the inhale, you will then exhale and move into the stretch.
When to Exhale
As you bend, twist, or reach, let out your breath. An exhalation should last for a count of seven to eight seconds. This gives you time to hold the stretch.
When you exhale, blow the hair from your mouth and allow yourself to make a slight “hah” sound from the back of the throat. It may feel strange, but controlled breathing in yoga can be quite loud. However, I find using proper breathing techniques soothing and relaxing, ultimately making it easier to stretch further into poses.
Holding Your Breath
When you first start yoga, it’s natural to hold your breath when pushing yourself to reach further or hold a difficult pose. It took me several classes to stop holding my breath and maintain a steady rhythmic breath throughout the session. Eventually, you want to avoid holding your breath so that you can maintain a steady cycle of inhaling and exhaling as you move from pose to pose.
Tell us in the comments below what you’ve learned since starting yoga classes. Is yoga breathing difficult or simple for you?
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