By Faye Martins
Although asana may be the number one priority in many yoga teacher training courses, one’s health depends on more than firm muscles. Our breath keeps us alive and if we can improve it, there is potential to live a longer and better quality life. Yoga instructors should make students aware of the connection between pranayama and complete health.
Even if we never practiced yoga training at all, breathing is an important part of our vitality that many of us regularly take for granted. Deep breaths can do amazing things for your body, including releasing tension, clearing the mind and improving circulation to the organs. Too many people are going through life without using the simple act of breathing to improve overall health. If breathing is something you don’t think about on a regular basis, you may be a shallow breather. If you are, make a few small changes to improve your attitude, stress levels and overall health.
Tests to Determine Shallow Breathing
There are a couple of tests to determine if you are in fact a shallow breather. First, lie on your back and place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Breathe normally. If your abdomen does not rise and fall with each breath, you are a shallow breather. Also try the same exercise with both hands below the rib cage. Your ribs should effortlessly expand and contract with each breath. If this is not the case, then the air you are pulling in is not sufficient enough to fill up the rib cage. If you find yourself holding your breath after each inhale, as if the breath is stuck for a second before the exhale, that is also a sign of shallow breathing.
Victorious Breath: Take a slow, deep breath in through the nose only. As you inhale, constrict the back of the throat so you produce a slight vibrational sound. It might sound like someone snoring or ocean waves. Exhale slowly through the nose, producing that same sound. Victorious breath is sometimes referred to as Ocean breath. It generates heat within the body and helps to remove lactic acid build-up.
Breath of Fire: Inhale deeply through the nose, concentrating on expanding your abdomen as if it were a balloon. Then exhale through the nose as well, pulling the belly button in toward the spine to deflate the balloon. Inhale in the same manner and on the second exhale, push the breath out in short puffs rather than one long exhale. Imagine you are a dragon puffing out hot breaths of fire.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Inhaling and exhaling through different nostrils will bring calm to an active mind and unite both sides of the brain. Begin by closing off one nostril with your thumb. Inhale slowly through the opposite nostril. Hold your breath for a second as you move the forefinger over to close the other side of the nose. Release the first breath by exhaling through the opposite nostril. Inhale without moving the finger. Replace the thumb on the other nostril to begin another exhale. Continue alternating each nostril as you try to make each breath slow and steady.
Although we may possibly learn to master pranayama in a yoga training session, do we apply this to life? How do we breathe when someone is taunting us? It’s hard to breathe perfectly all the time. Whether you’re a seasoned yoga teacher or a new student, you’ll encounter situations where being calm is a challenge. In any stressful situation, controlling the pace of your breath is the key to rational thinking and your health.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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