By Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500
Even breathing is a foundational pranayama technique to learn and practice before students go on to advanced forms of pranayama. Where should we start? Savasana is a good place to learn one of the most important skills in yoga training, smooth and even breathing.
When you are relaxed and breathing nasally and abdominally, it is easy to inhale evenly, smoothly merge the inhalation into the exhalation, but if you do so for any length of time the diaphragm will have relaxed completely during the pause and you may find that you are starting your next inhalation with a jerk. The best prevention for that disturbance is to begin your inhalation consciously just as exhalation ends.
Many of the principles underlying even abdominal breathing apply to even diaphragmatic breathing as well. Make sure there are no jerks in your breath. This is more difficult in diaphragmatic breathing than it is in abdominal breathing because the process is more complex and you are constantly monitoring the tension in your abdomen. Until you get accustomed to doing this, it may create slight disruptions during inhalations.
Be careful that you are not creating a pause at the end of inhalation. This is less of a problem in diaphragmatic breathing than it is in abdominal breathing because the additional tension in the abdomen (as well as the focus of mental attention at the junction of the chest and abdomen) keeps the diaphragm in a state of tension well into exhalation. Be even more watchful that you are not creating a pause at the end of exhalation.
As with abdominal breathing, it is important to assist exhalation with the abdominal muscles, causing that part of the cycle to slow, smoothly and naturally into the inhalation. As inhalation proceeds, however, there is an important difference between abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing, during abdominal breathing, the abdominal muscles facilitate even breathing only at the beginning of inhalation, but during diaphragmatic breathing, they remain active throughout inhalation so that their isometric tension can force the diaphragm to spread its costal attachment laterally and enlarge the rib cage.
Breathe through your nose and try not to create noise. If your breathing is noisy, you may have to work with cleansing, diet, allergies and breathing exercises to solve the problem, but this is essential. Noisy breathing will distract your mind as long as it lasts.
Observe in your mind’s eye, the elliptical nature of the breathing cycle. Smoothly decelerate your rate of inhalation and merge it into exhalation exactly as you would round off an ellipse at the top of a chalkboard. Smoothly accelerate your exhalation under the control of your abdominal muscles as you draw the chalk down the ellipse, smoothly decelerate your exhalation and merge it into the inhalation as you carry your mark around the bottom of the ellipse.
Until you have mastered even breathing do not try to lengthen your inhalations and exhalations. A 2 second inhalation and a 2 second exhalation is fine, or a little faster or slower. The longer you try to make the cycle, the more difficult it is to make it even. So be completely natural at first without thinking of trying to accomplish anything. After several months of practice you can slowly work up to making your breaths longer, so long as you are still not jerking, pausing or making noise.
If you are taking fewer than six breaths per minute, you will be adding a thoracic component to diaphragmatic breathing, which means that you are activating the external intercostal muscles concentrically, especially toward the end of inhalation. You will also be pressing more insistently with the abdominal muscles to lengthen the exhalation. If you carry this to an extreme, going slowly, you will finally approach breathing your vital capacity with each cycle of exhalation and inhalation. This is the complete breath and a foundational concept in pranayama practice.
Hari Om Tat Sat
© Copyright 2010 – Sanjeev Patel / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Sanjeev Patel is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.
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