When all else fails, Just Breathe!

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Breathe. It sounds so simple to follow the instruction “just breathe!”, but really, do you know how to breathe? Yes, it’s an involuntary function that happens naturally, but, have you ever focused on your breath to notice how you breathe? In many yoga styles, breath is fundamentally important to ones yoga practice. Some people just think of yoga as physical postures that provide flexibility and strength however, incorporating the breath into your movements helps to deepen your focus thereby expanding the posture.

Dirgha (pronounced deer-ga) pranayama, sometimes referred to as the full yogic breath or the three part breath, is a breathing technique in which the entire lung capacity is utilized. This provides more oxygen to the brain and body and helps to flush out toxins. As we take in more oxygen, our blood in enriched and purified. Ancient yoga text tells us that “breath is the key to ultimate emancipation.” It frees our minds of thoughts, relaxes our body and allows energy and vitality to emerge.

Try practicing dirgha pranayama and notice the effects for yourself.

Practicing Dirgha pranayama (3- part or full yogic breath)

Sit tall, lengthening the spine from your tailbone to the top of your head.

Begin by sitting quietly, observing your breath. At this point don’t change the breath in any way, just merely observe. Take note of where you feel the inhalation begin in your body- abdomen, rib cage, or upper chest? How fast are you breathing? Is the breath shallow or deep? Are your inhalations the same length as your exhalations? Do you breathe through your nose or your mouth? Allow your observation to be free of judgment for several breaths.

  • Place both hands on your abdomen and inhale deeply through your nose feeling your hands move outward with the inhalation as your body fills with air. Exhale through the nose.
  • Move your hands to the side of your rib cage and breathe into your chest, noticing the expansion of the ribs moving outward as you inhale through the nose. Exhale through the nose.
  • Shift your hands to rest just below your collar bones and draw breath into that area of your body. Notice the rise of the chest with the inhalation through the nose. Exhale through the nose.
  • Using one inhalation to move the breath through all three parts of your lungs, inhale into the abdomen, allow the air to rise through your ribs, ending the inhalation at your collar bones. Slowly allow air to escape the lungs on the exhalation. Beginning again, breathing deeply into your abdomen, moving air through your ribs and towards the collar bones before releasing in exhalation, slightly pulling the naval towards your spine to release all air out of the body before beginning again with the inhalation. Allow the length of your inhalation to match the length of your exhalation.
  • Move at your own pace breathing in this way for several breaths, focusing solely on the breath. Notice the full lung capacity being utilized as you breathe in this manner.

Use dirgha pranayama throughout your day whenever you need to calm your body and mind or to help you StaCentered.