Prana is the life force within you
Most of the time, I am not consciously focused on my breathing, unless I am using it as a way to calm myself down or taking a deep sigh or stretching to wake up. And most of the time my breathing is relaxed but probably on the shallow side.
If you've taken a yoga class, you may have heard your teacher say:
Come into your three part breath
Go ahead and observe yourself breathing for a few moments during the day. Observe the depth and pacing of your breath. This is YOUR breath; celebrate it!
Getting Started with Dirgha Pranayama
- Allow your eyes to close and start focus on your breathing.
- Place your hands on your belly and inhale while expanding your belly – like filling a balloon to a big belly. Exhale while contracting your belly to a little belly.
- Repeat this movement and breathe a few more times.
- Now move your hands to your ribs and inhale and exhale while expanding and contracting the intercostals like an accordion. (The intercostals are a group of muscles between the ribs and assist the body with breathing.) Inhale and your fingers may come together, exhale and your fingers may come apart.
- Lastly, move your hands to your clavicles, or cross your arms and place each hand on its opposite shoulder, and lift and release your shoulders along with the breath. (The clavicle is the collar bone.) Repeat a few times. Release your hands and focus inward on the breath and the 3-part movements.
- You may want to start with just the belly breath for a week or two and then the rib cage breath for a week or two and then the shoulder breath for the same amount of time. This will allow the body/mind to relearn this breathing technique without getting confused or frustrated.
After you have mastered each part, you may want to add them all together.
- On your inhale – inhale one third of your breath into your belly, the second third into your ribs, and your last third into your shoulders.
- On your exhale – exhale from your shoulders first, then your ribs contract followed by your belly.
Benefits of Pranayama
- Continue this wonderful expanding and contracting breath while your entire body and nervous systems relax, particularly your abdominal region where we hold so many tensions and stresses.
- Your heart also relaxes, balancing your blood pressure.
- Your abdomen gets a massage while your organs tone. Your digestion is stimulated while your intestines regulate.
- More of your lungs are used resulting in more oxygen intake from each breath, bestowing calmness to your body and increased clarity to your mind. Your body is cleansed of carbon dioxide, thus improving circulation.
- This relaxed breathing helps calm emotions.
Getting Started and Benefits portions adapted from and with thanks to Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga Teacher Development Manual, page 7-18.