Learning to exhale…

What is the importance of deep breathing and why do yogis so faithfully believe in it?

Breathing is life, the very source of movement.

Breath is more important to us than either food or water. We can go weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen. But we know this, right? We know how to breathe. It is something that occurs automatically, spontaneously, naturally. So why do we need to be taught how to breathe?

Our breathing is too shallow and too quick. We are not taking in sufficient oxygen and we are not eliminating sufficient carbon dioxide. As a result, our bodies are oxygen starved, and a toxic build-up occurs. One major reason for our shallow breathing is the stress of everyday modern life and work. Certainly, yoga is not the only way to cope with the stress and the resultant drop in oxygen supply to the brain brought on my constricted breathing. A coffee break, a trip to the restroom or a good laugh may all result in some readjustment of constricted breathing patterns. We can all benefit from seeking more breaks, a walk outside, a deep breath, let it be your “work day yoga”.

Animals which breathe slowly live the longest; the elephant is a good example.

The benefits of deep breathing include:
Increase in digestive fire
Oxygen purifies the blood stream
Improvement in the health of the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord
Rejuvenation of the skin
Reduces the work load of the heart
Weight control
And finally, relaxation of the mind and body

In yogic terms, breath increases our prana or life force.
(See my blog ‘Positively Prana’ for more understanding on Prana: https://lindseyogabliss.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/positively-prana/)

And lastly, it is important to breathe through your nose. This may seem obvious, but many people breathe principally through the mouth. Put simply, the nose is a natural filter that prevents impurities from entering the body. This keeps your lungs clean and free of small debris that may come in through your mouth without your knowing.

So I leave you with an experiment: Try to be aware of your breathing when you are excited, angry, stressed, and relaxed and notice how it changes. Be aware of your breath and try to use your full lung capacity. When you breathe deeply the air is brought down to the bottom of the lungs, where the richest blood supply is. Think of all the benefits of deep breathing, why wouldn’t you want to take a nice deep breath?


(photo by Ashes and Snow)

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