Why is Breath Important in Yoga?

A successful yogic asana not only relies on pose and technique but also depends on physical factors like breathing, flexibility, and mind-muscle connection. In fact, an entire meditative practice is centered around breathing alone, called pranayama. Physical movement in the form of yogic asanas helps open energy channels (nadis) and relieves muscle stiffness. 

Breathing rhythmically while doing yoga helps remove energetic blockages, makes us calm, and opens energy channels giving us an insight into the nature of our mind.  

Read on to know more about why breath is important in yoga. 

Breathing Benefits: At a Glance 

Biological benefits Helps removes toxins from the body, promoting better blood flow 
Oxygenated blood supply facilitates smoother functioning of our organs and Increases energy levels 
Deep breathing channels positive energy into our minds and makes us more aware of our surroundings
Emotional benefitsBreathing slows your heart rate and allows the body to inhale more oxygen, ultimately helping you relax.
Physical benefits Strengthens digestive system 
Improves immunity since oxygenated blood is cleansed and toxin-free.
Eliminates joint compression and other bodily imbalances 

The True Essence of Yoga

Translated, yoga means ‘to yoke or bring together into union.’ This is an ancient discipline that has been a wellness practice for centuries. Yoga is what ties one’s body and mind into cohesion via a mix of active and passive techniques

To foster this, developing a deep interpersonal connection is essential. Although many modern-day practices might make it seem as if yoga is simply about complicated handstands and poses, the inner sense of tranquility truly helps us. Instead of paying attention to what goes on around us, yoga helps us form a powerful bond between our mind and body, whereas breathing bridges the gap between them. 

Low blood-oxygen levels can lead to heart damage, excessive fatigue, and even nocturnal hypoxemia. Thus, breathing properly becomes crucial when doing a yogic asana. It helps channel the movement of energy and allows you to relax. Improved blood circulation, a feeling of calmness, and hormonal balance are some other advantages of breathing while doing yoga. 

Conscious Breathing 

Conscious breathing is a practice where a person is aware of when they exhale and inhale. Mindful breathing helps them connect with the energy within and has a biological effect on one’s physical state. Meditation and yoga are based on conscious breathing. 

When seen from a biological point of view, conscious breathing also helps activate a different part of our brain. The medulla oblongata, a very rudimentary part of our brain, is responsible for unconscious breathing. On the other hand, conscious breathing is governed by our cerebral cortex. When you breathe deliberately, you transfer control to more evolved parts of your mind that trigger relaxative emotions. 

Studies have also shown that a variation in breathing patterns can induce different mental states. For example, while rapid breathing can give you anxiety, deep breathing will run inhibitory signals into the hypothalamus, making you feel calmer. 

The human body has 72,000 nadis (channels of energy flow). Ida, Sushumna, and Pingala are three of the essential energy channels. The ‘Ida nadi’ channels energy from our spin to the left nostril, whereas the ‘Pingala Nadi ends in the right nostril. The Sushumna Nadi is all about balance and is activated when Ida and Pingala work in harmony, i.e., when we breathe correctly. 

Pro Tip: When inhaling, there comes a peak point at which your chest and abdomen are fully expanded. If you choose to hold your breath after inhalation, only do it while holding an asana, not moving. The opposite is true for exhalation. Here are 20 meditation techniques that will help you de-stress. 

Breathing with Awareness: The Right Way

Optimal breathing can be achieved by combining three phases of respiration: 

  • Intake (pooraka)
  • Retention (kumbhaka)
  • Expiration (rechaka/pranayama)

If you are a beginner, synchronizing your breathing pattern with the instructions of your yoga teacher might seem quite confusing. For instance, you might be exhaling when the instructor asks you to inhale, and so on. However, the general rule of thumb suggests that you exhale whenever you bend forward and inhale when you expand your body/open the chest. 

For the most part, you should be breathing with your nose since the nose is our body’s natural filter for air. Think of breathing as a two-step process: breathing slowly and then exhaling. Another technique to help you master your breath while doing yoga is ‘Ujjayi Pranayama.’ You need to inhale deeply through the nose and contract the back of your throat. Then, exhale gently through the nose and repeat. 

When meditating, try to be consciously aware of whether you inhale or exhale at a particular time. You can also chant a simple sentence like: ‘I am exhaling/I am inhaling.’ This type of meditation is called Anapana.

 Thanks for reading!

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