By: Lauren Green – Vinyasa Yoga Instructor
A person who is new to yoga may not see the significance of the breath to their practice. They may prioritise muscular strength and flexibility and forget to breathe, or at least forget to breathe well.
Most people are aware that breathing is about supplying oxygen to the body. They are aware that they can control their breathing consciously or that they can go on ‘auto-pilot’ and continue breathing without conscious effort. However, many people would not be aware of the various roles performed by the respiratory system or the influence that the respiratory system can have on the mental, emotional and physical state.
Breathing in, or inhaling, brings oxygen into the lungs, and breathing out, or exhaling, releases carbon dioxide, which is used up oxygen. During inhalation the structures in the nose, throat and lungs can filter, warm up and moisten the air. These factors are all greatly beneficial for our body, so in yoga we aim to breath in a way that maximises these functions. We also aim to improve the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide. By breathing slowly and evenly through the nose we assist all of the important roles of breathing to occur at their best. The nose is especially good at filtrating, warming and moistening the air compared to the mouth. It is also better at slowing the breath than the mouth because the nostrils are smaller openings for the air to flow through. This is why we aim to breath deep down into the abdomen. It encourages the diaphragm at the base of the lungs to pull downwards, creating space around the lungs for more air intake and therefore more oxygen intake. By taking conscious control of the breathing pattern we can also produce different states of mind, such as relaxation and inner peace as well as improving the flow of prana, or vital energy, through the body. The connection of the breath with the movement helps us to focus on the flow and tune out external distractions, which means it can ultimately improve our asana practice. For all these reasons we use the breath to connect our mind, body and spirit.
Now you know why yoga instructors emphasise the importance of berating during yoga practice!
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