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, if it doesn’t move at all, or if you’re dealing with stress and anxiety, it’s time to get back to breathing basics. This three minute yogic breathing exercise does just that and can even change your life.
The power of the breath should never be underestimated.
Many of us have adopted unhealthy breathing habits that need to be undone. Rather than using our full lung capacity to breath deeply into the belly, we breathe shallowly into the chest.
As a result, we deprive our internal organs of much needed oxygen.
This negatively impacts digestion; bad breathing habits are often seen in people with digestive disorders. Plus, because the breath and mind are intimately connected, shallow breathing actually creates unnecessary feelings of anxiety and stress.
If anyone knows all about the breath, it’s yogis.
They’ve long used the breath to influence the mind and health through the practice of breath regulation called pranayama. In fact, yogis even believe that we’re each allotted a certain number of breaths. Once we sip in our very last, we leave this human body. In order to lengthen the lifespan, yogis employ slow, deep, abdominal breathing.
You too can benefit from breathing like a yogi. If you noticed your belly contracting as you inhale, this pranayama technique will undo bad breathing habits. It’s a form of abdominal breathing that redevelops a normal pattern of breath, all the while nourishing your entire being.
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 this breath calms the mind and relieves stress.
Putting Abdominal Breathing into Practice
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 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 ten counts. Feel the belly contract.
6. Repeat this breath nine more times; inhaling for five, exhaling for ten.
7. When you’re finished release your hands and return to natural belly breathing. Feel the peaceful energy flowing throughout your body.
Practice this exercise once or twice daily and anytime you feel stressed. You’ll soon reestablish a normal, healthy breathing pattern that soothes and nourishes your body and mind.
(This article was also published on elephantjournal.com)
Saraswati, Swami Satyananda. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2008.