Breathing relaxes the mind, and serves as a perfect warm-up for practicing yoga poses. It provides sufficient oxygen for the correct and efficient functioning of every body cell. A mastery of yoga breathing techniques is the best – and most effective tool for stress reduction. Relax yoga breathing soothes the nervous system; calms, steadies, and clears the mind; improves concentration, focuses attention, and increases the ability to deal with complex situations without suffering from stress.
LET THE WHOLE BODY BREATHE. When we are at ease, the whole body participates in the breathing process. Imagine a sleeping baby: When he breathes in and out, the belly swells and releases, the hips rock to and fro, the shoulders bob, and the spine gently undulates. This offers a mini-massage for the muscles and organs of the whole body, and turns each breath into a soothing melody that further calms and quiets every cell within.
MOVE THE BELLY WITH THE BREATH. When we are at ease, the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. As we inhale, this domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly. As we exhale, the diaphragm releases back toward the heart, enabling the belly to release toward the spine.
LENGTHEN THE EXHALATIONS. When we feel stressed, our exhalations tend to grow short and choppy. When we’re relaxed, though, the exhalations extend so completely that they are often longer than the inhalations. Some teachers even instruct that if we’re deeply relaxed, each exhalation will be twice as long as the inhalation. To facilitate this, try gently extending each exhalation by one or two seconds.
PAUSE AFTER EACH EXHALATION. In our most relaxed state, the end of each exhalation is punctuated by a short pause. Lingering in this sweet spot can be deeply satisfying and can evoke feelings of profound quiet and stillness.
KEEP THE UPPER BODY QUIET. During high-stress times, it’s common to heave the upper chest and grip the muscles in the shoulders and throat. When we’re at rest, the muscles of the upper chest remain soft and relaxed as we breathe, and the real work occurs in the lower rib cage. To promote this type of breathing pattern, consciously relax the jaw, throat, neck, and shoulders, and envision the breath sweeping into the deepest parts of the lungs as you breathe in and out.
BREATHE EASY. Although some breaths may be deeper or faster than others, when we’re relaxed, the alternating rhythm of the inhalations and exhalations feels like a lullaby—smooth, soft, and uninterrupted by jerks and jags. Consciously relaxing into this wavelike, oceanic quality of the breath deepens our sense of peace and ease.