by: Nancy Levenson
Breath begins and ends our journey of life. And we all believe we already know how to breathe, so why should we learn new ways to breathe in yoga? After all, breath is something that occurs naturally in our body.
On a daily basis we take an average of 20,000 breaths. Prana (energy) and yama (the control of that energy) is what yoga pranayama is all about. Breath awareness is the primary focus of our teaching at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness and our 200HR Integrative Yoga Therapy teaching program. When we become aware of our breath, we can help refine the optimal functioning of our lungs, ensuring the free flow of our prana. In our yoga practice, every move we make is guided, not followed, by the breath.
In our western lifestyle, many of us have become chest breathers, the reverse of healthy and optimal breathing. When we chest breath, we ask our organs and body to work harder, we use our prana less efficiently, we limit the amount of oxygen reaching our vital tissues, we can feel the fight/flight aspect of living in our sympathetic nervous system and create complications to our health.
You can do a simple check on yourself to determine if you are breathing in the chest or belly.
1. Lay down in a supine position on the mat – we encourage Savasana, a relaxed yoga pose
2. Place your left hand on your check and your right hand on the belly
3. Draw the breath in threw the nose, and out the nose, breathing naturally and easy and notice which hand is rising first, the left or right
If you find that your left hand is raising and perhaps you notice your right not moving at all, you may well be breathing in a way that does not support your optimal health. If you are a chest breather, you are most likely taking in almost 12,000 more breaths per day than normal. While that may seem great, it actually is nothing more than a taxing of our vital respiratory system. Unfortunately, many instructors will guide you to follow them in pranayama practices that may be contraindicated for your health. Pranayamas are sensitive to providing your body either a cooling, neutral or heating effect. Just because an instructor says, “take Ujjayi Pranayama”, it may be the very breath, you should avoid.
To learn more about pranayama or to obtain a full breath assessment, consider a one-on-one yoga therapy session. Our goal is to guide you back to optimal breathing, which ultimately leads to optimal health.
To learn more about our Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training, contact us for a full syllabus.
Nancy Levenson is founder of NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness which offers Yoga as a Healing Art to the Douglas County communities of Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Castle Rock, Castle Pines and other nearby communities. Our service is one-on-one healing therapy, a RYS Registered Yoga Alliance School providing a 200HR Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training and Free group classes at Yoga in the Park, Highlands Ranch.