The science of breathing is ill-explored, as it comes to us naturally, we don’t give it the attention it deserves. Yoga revolves around the ancient spiritual practice conjoining mind, body and soul. The most important element that binds the body and soul is – air. Your body’s relationship with air starts at the entrance of your nostrils, fills your lungs and kick-starts blood circulation.
Is it possible to be breathing wrong?
It may come as a shock to many, but yes, it is possible for you to be breathing in a manner that is not the most beneficial to your body. In some cases, it can even be harmful to the body. Improper breathing means lesser oxygen is being transported to your body organs, causing a bevy of associated problems like restlessness, shortness of breath, dizziness, lack of coordination and anxiety.
Breathing can be corrected with the help of some simple breathing exercises. Conscious breath is emphasized in the practice of yoga, so much that an entire branch of yoga is dedicated to it – Pranayama. Specific breathing exercises can help you breathe, deeper and better.
1. Breath awareness
Bring to your breath a certain awareness, be aware of the slow and steady rise and fall of your breath. Pay attention to your breathing in different situations and environments. This alone will improve your breathing.
2. Ujjayi Pranayama
This is the classic pranayama, the breath exercise where you completely fill the lungs with air, slightly contract your chest, inhale and exhale deeply through your nose. This breathing creates a whooshing sound, commonly referred to as ‘Ocean’s breath’ and brings you a deep sense of pleasure from experiencing the present moment.
3. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate breathing)
This exercise is where alternate nostril breathing is practised. Yogis practice Nadi Shodhana Pranayama while inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other, in slow, long, deep breaths. It is believed that this clears the pathways, which carry the energy of life-force. Scientific research also shows that individuals who practice this experience higher mental clarity and focus.
4. Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath Retention)
Take a deep breath, inhale fully and before you can exhale hold your breath for 10 seconds. This is a breath retention exercise that helps your body receive maximum oxygen keeping your body well oxygenated, rejuvenating all your organs and their functions.
5. Kapalabhati Pranayama (Breath of fire)
The breath of fire, unlike the others is a rapid breathing exercise, breathing in short spurts engaging the abdominal muscles. This awakens the solar plexus merely through breath and hence the name ‘Breath of fire.’ Your inhale and exhale may be fast-paced but at regular short intervals. The Breath of fire is a good energizer and aids in the process of prompt and good decision making.
The practice of pranayama may impact one’s breathing and prove beneficial to the body in numerous ways. But, remember, the most important part of all this is to breathe deeply and effortlessly!