Why is breathing in Yoga important? People understand that Yoga training can be beneficial to their overall health, but few of them understand the importance of breathing properly while performing yoga. Each breath we take, whether it is a long and deep breath or a short panting breath, has a physical effect on our bodies. Combine this with the mental and muscular exercises in Hatha Yoga, and the way one breathes while transitioning through or when holding a pose is just as important as the pose itself.
Pranayama is the form of yogic breathing in Yoga classes. Each breath inhaled must be exhaled, and the position our body is in determines the duration that the breath is in our body. Controlling pranayama during Yoga training sessions provides oxygen to the body and also causes the body to release toxins and waste products from our body.
In Vinyasa Yoga practice, pranayama is controlled and altered during the transition between poses. The breathing techniques assist with the yoga poses for the maximum benefit to the body. Yoga teachers will often teach the Ujjayi breath during Vinyasa, which is a specific way of breathing in Yoga designed to pull your focus into the movements your body is making while providing an adequate supply of oxygen to your body. It has also been suggested that the Ujjayi breath also raises the body’s internal temperature to help facilitate healing and help relieve common headaches as well as sinus congestion and pressure.
Paying attention to our breathing in yoga class is essential in maintaining a healthy body. If our breathing is too shallow or too quick, we starve our bodies of much-needed oxygen, allowing toxins to build. Lack of oxygen from improper breathing also decreases blood flow, causing fatigue. The exhaustion and lack of energy makes it difficult to enjoy the activities that we once enjoyed. By learning proper breathing techniques and using them with the yoga exercises and postures, we can increase our energy levels and allow our bodies to stay healthy.
There are exceptions (Udgeeth, Sitali and Ujjayi variations), but usually breathing in Yoga is through the nose instead of the mouth, which is the common way to breathe. The nose filters out the pathogens from the air that enter our bodies, and it is also believed by yogis that the nose can absorb the prana (vital energy) from the air. The extra energy (gained through pranayama practice) will help your body fight illnesses and allow more oxygen to reach your vital organs.
One of the first things yoga instructors should teach students is a better way to practice breathing in yoga training and during life’s daily situations. Breathing is such a vital part of life and practicing yoga for maintaining energy during the asana exercises, meditation sessions, and also for your daily health.
When we begin physical styles, many of us think asana is the answer for everything. Yet, years go by and you begin to appreciate the Eight Limbs as described by Patanjali. Often overlooked, pranayama connects the mind and body easily. Breathing in yoga class is taken for granted, because we always take the breath for granted, unless we are in a situation when we have difficulty breathing. Dr. Paul has always said, “wake up with gratitude.” When one intern asked why we should be grateful, he replied, “You’re breathing, thinking, and talking – That’s a lot to be thankful for.” Breath is life and without breathing we won’t live for long. Mastery of breathing in yoga and life is extremely important.
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