Baby, We were born to breathe.
Yoga instructors are often talking about mindful breathing.
When teaching, I try to offer multiple techniques for elongating the breath, but I don’t always explain why it is important to spend time expanding our breath capacity.
In my own life, I’ve noticed that the ability to take longer, smoother breaths allows me to keep calm in emotionally charged moments. Having more control over my breath makes physical challenges more tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable.
Animals have the natural ability to detox, to a point. Cells require plenty of fresh oxygen to remain healthy. Deep, complete breaths oxygenate and rejuvenate all the systems of the body, aiding in the detoxification process. Increased breath capacity = extended longevity.
B.K.S. Iyengar said,
“Most of us assume that because breathing is automatic, it is beyond our active control. This is not true. In pranayama (controlled breathing), by arduous training of the lungs and nervous system, breathing can be made more efficient by changing its rate, depth and quality. The lung capacity of great athletes, mountain climbers, and yogis is far greater than that of ordinary people, allowing them to perform extraordinary feats. Better breathing means a better and healthier life.“
Mr. Iyengar recently passed away at age ninety-eight and still enjoyed practicing headstand for a half hour every day up until a few months before his death. So I imagine he was onto something.
One of my yoga instructors teaches a breathing exercise that can help practitioners discover their current breath capacity and use the technique as a marker for future improvement. This exercise can also double as a calming meditation. If you’re interested, give this a try:
How to master this in 3 minutes
Using a timer, count how many breaths you take in three minutes. One inhale and one exhale = One breath. Make the breath as long and smooth as possible without holding the breath or straining in any way.
The average person takes between 16 and 30 breaths in three minutes. The first time I did this exercise, I took 17 breaths. Five years later, I am down to five breaths.
My teacher can take one breath in three minutes. I watched him do it. He inhales for 90 seconds and exhales for 90 seconds, and he has the biggest rib cage I’ve ever seen. He had respiratory issues as a child and dedicated his life to breathing. He is proof that anything is possible with consistent practice.
We are rewarded in our culture for moving very quickly and efficiently through our lives. That makes a daily, voluntarily breath practice even more valuable because it’s time we designate to purposefully slowing down. When we slow down our breath, we slow down our internal pace and reconnect to what’s important. Mindful breathing helps us remember that everything we need is already within.
Yogasync Me! Have you have discovered and enjoyed the joys of this free video that teaches you yoga breathing? Then you are ready to get even smarter with your breath: