Yogis have long known that the breath is intimately connected to all facets of wellness.
Yogic thought believes that we are each allotted a certain number of breaths. With our last breath comes the end of our life. In order to lengthen the lifespan, yoga emphasizes slow, deep abdominal breathing. You too can benefit from breathing like a yogi.
Pause for a moment and take a few natural breaths.
Observe your belly as you breathe. Does it expand with each inhalation or does it contract? If your belly draws toward your spine as you inhale, or if you're dealing with stress or anxiety, this three-minute yogic breathing exercise might just change your life.
Many of us have adopted unhealthy breathing habits that negatively affect not only our physical health, but also our minds. The breath and the mind are inextricably connected.
Rather than using our full lung capacity and breathing deeply into the belly, we breathe shallowly into the chest. As a result, we deprive our bodies of much needed oxygen and actually create feelings of anxiety and stress.
If you noticed your belly contracting as you inhale, this yogic exercise will undo bad breathing habits and soothe the mind. It also fires up the power of digestion, increases circulation, helps to drain lymph, and expels respiratory toxins. The prolonged inhalations and exhalations massage the liver, stomach and internal organs. You'll quickly feel the breath's impact on your nerves, as deep belly breathing calms the mind and relieves stress.
This three-minute yogic exercise focuses on abdominal breathing (also called belly or diaphragmatic breathing). You'll reconnect to your inborn form of breathing and redevelop a normal pattern of breath, all the while nourishing your entire being.
Let's get started.
1. Sit comfortably. Lengthen your spine.
2. Interlace your fingers and rest your hands on your belly. Close your eyes and mouth.
3. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, sending the breath into your belly. Feel your hands move away, belly expanding. Breathe out slowly and deeply through the nose. Feel your hands draw toward you, belly contracting. Repeat two more times.
4. With your next breath, lengthen your inhalation to a count of five. You can silently count "om 1, om 2, om 3, om 4, om 5" to keep a rhythm. Feel the belly expand.
5. Exhale slowly for 10 counts. Feel the belly contract.
6. Repeat this breath nine more times; inhaling for 5, exhaling for 10.
7. When you're finished release your hands and return to natural belly breathing. Feel the peace within.
Once you're comfortable with the 5:10 ratio (inhaling for 5, exhaling for 10), increase to 6:12. Continue to slowly increase the ratio over time, week by week or month by month, all the way up to 8:16.
Practice this exercise twice daily and anytime you're feeling stressed. Since it's so relaxing, it can also help you wind down before bed.
Just a few minutes a day will teach you to breath like a yogi so that you can experience the soothing, nourishing capacity of the breath.
Illustration by Katherine Prendergast