Yogic breathing is a fundamental practice in the study of yoga. The breath is paramount in your yoga practice, it is more important than the postures themselves. As one of the limbs of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, yogic breathing, or pranayama, is defined as the “control of life force,” and directed at increasing the imperative energy in the body and mind. The ancient yogis believed that if we can control our breath we can control our minds.
When you tap into deep breathing it dials down the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) getting rid of our fight-or-flight response. If your body had a fire department the PNS would be that. When you find yourself breathing slowly and deeply finding a sense of calmness and peace that invades your being you can bet that the PNS is turned on enhancing digestion, increasing blood flow to the GI track, lowering the heart rate, and enhancing sexual arousal. Yogic breathing loads your blood with oxygen, which by nourishing and repairing your body’s cells maintains your health at the optimum level. Research shows that yogic breathing positively impacts mood and reduces anxiety and depression.
Shallow breathing doesn’t oxygenate the blood circulating in your arteries and veins efficiently. Because of the poor circulation toxins can build up in the cells and before you know it you can feel sluggish and down. The breath is a place where we can begin to plug into our nervous system and support its overall function and balance.
One of my favorite breathing techniques is Nadi Shodhana (nah-dee show-DAH-nah), which is alternate nostril breathing. This is a purifying pranayama that alternates the blockage of each nostril. It balances the nadis, or channels of energy throughout the body, and balances the solar and lunar energies in the body to integrate the two hemispheres of the brain. This is a wonderful pranayama technique to close your HOT Power Flow practice with.
A few steps to practice Nadi Shodhana:
1. Sit comfortably and make Mrigi Mudra with your right hand by bending the index and middle finger in toward the palm. This will leave your thumb lifted as well as the ring and pinkie finger.
2. Turn the hand toward your face and use your thumb to gently close the left nostril by pressing under the bridge of your nose. Inhale slowly through your left nostril.
3. Close the left nostril with your ring and pinkie finger and open the right nostril to exhale slowly.
4. Keep the right nostril open as you inhale.
5. Close the right nostril with your thumb and open the left nostril to exhale.
Repeat this cycle 5-10 times and become aware of the effects.
Tap into your breath in any of our classes here at the Wilmington Yoga Center.