What is the quality of your breathing? This may be something you haven’t considered given breathing typically happens naturally and without thought. However, the practice of Pranayama, one of the eight limbs of yoga, reveals how the skillful use of breath will improve our health. Depending on the type of breathwork performed, you can bring about relaxation, energize your mind, aid in concentration, strengthen respiration or improve your immune system.
Advanced Pranayama techniques are typically performed under the guidance of a trained teacher; fortunately, there are many basic breathing exercises you can easily perform. Practicing the “Breath of Awareness” is an excellent starting point. You will focus on the breath through each stage of the cycle; inhale, filled with breath, exhale and empty breath, observing the breath without judgment. By noticing each stage and its sensations you will be connecting the mind with the body, a core intention of yoga.
Breath of Awareness
Begin in a seated position. Breathing through the nostrils with mouth closed.
Inhale– Where do you feel the breath? How do the sensations in the body change as the breath deepens? What parts of the body are moving? Does the flow slow down, speed up, get stuck? How does your body respond? What does the breath sound like? What changes do you sense in the mind?
Filled with Air-How long does the pause last before the exhale? What sensations do you feel in the body? What changes do you sense in the mind?
Exhale-Where do first feel the movement in the body? Does the exhale happen quickly or slowly? Is it smooth and relaxed? How does the pace change during the exhale? Is the air released fully? What changes do you sense in the mind?
Empty breath-How long is the pause before the inhale? Is there any tension in the body? What changes do you sense in the mind?
You can try performing this exercise in more than one position, including during asanas, to gain even deeper awareness of your breath. This practice will prepare you to learn more refined Pranayama techniques building an increased sense of health and well-being.
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