Yoga breathing is one of the most powerful tools anyone can use to settle the mind, body and spirit. There are several yoga breath techniques that produce specific effects such as lowering blood pressure, integrating right and left brain hemispheres and reducing stress responses. First, the most important part of breathing is to establish what the core trunk muscles do during an inhale and exhale.
Studies indicate that as a whole, people tend to breathe in what is called a paradoxical breath pattern where on the inhale the belly is sucked in and on the exhale the belly releases out. Yet, this is actually reverse of what a normal and healthy breathing pattern needs to be. When we inhale and expand (instead of contract) into our lower abdomen we allow the lungs more space to fill up and exchange old air for new air more efficiently. This usually means that we have engaged our core trunk muscles to help expand the body with the extra benefit of strengthening our supportive core muscles. On the exhale, we actually contract the core trunk muscles, drawing in actively through the belly to help exhale out old air.
To practice breathing with the belly expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale, try placing hands on the belly. When inhaling through the nose the belly expands out into the hands slightly pressing. On the exhale, breathe out the mouth and say the letter ‘F’ on the exhale until there is no more air to let out. While doing this, the belly pulls away from the hands and the core abdomen should feel engaged or active. Do this about five times in a row and notice how the body feels!
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