Our breath can powerfully link our body and mind. Mindful breathing focuses attention on the present moment; here we become one, more whole, in the moment. The yogis of ancient India considered fresh oxygen and calmness the key to physical stamina, so breathing in tune with the rhythms of nature has always been an integral part of yoga. Similar to the benefits of aerobics, rhythmic breathing infuses the body with oxygen, and helps rid it of toxins and stress. For the ancients, the goal around the breath was to help people reduce stress and become “better people.”
The term respiration comes from the Latin root spirare. Spiritus, a derivative, means “breath of a god.” Conscious breathing practices help offer health, energizing and healing benefits. You can practice these strategies and enjoy more mindful breathing:
Align your posture: Begin with a neutral spine with the crown of the head to the sky, ears over your shoulders, shoulders down and over your hips, tall neck, rib cage lifted, abdominals pulled in and up, knees slightly flexed, and the feet grounded into the Earth.
After exhaling deeply, concentrate on:
1. Breathing in with a deep inhalation: breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth on the exhalation.
2. Your belly as it expands and contracts with the breath-you can put your hand on the belly to make it more real.
3. Other parts of your body. This is an in the body rather that our-of –body experience. It is designed to make you aware of all bodily sensations.
4. Sounds around you.
5. Sights around you.
6. Favorite mantra or word pair to utter to yourself silently as you inhale and exhale. Say one word to yourself slowly, the whole time that you inhale. Say the second word to yourself slowly as you exhale. (For example, inhale, and say, Here, exhale, and say Now).
7. Excellent posture and form with eyes open or closed, honoring the self and others.
Savoring 5 Ways of Breathing Well:
- Complete breath/diaphragmatic breathing: Place one hand on your abdomen, and the other on your upper chest. Slowly, and while visualizing the lungs as 3 chambers, breathe in, and fill your belly, chest cavity, and then the top of your lungs (by your collarbone, expanding the shoulders) with air. Exhale and repeat.
- Rhythmic breathing, and a sigh of exhalation: Breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and exhale audibly for a count of 8. Relax and repeat.
- 1:2 ratio: Breathe in and out fully. Then breathe in for a count of 4, out for a count of 8. With practice you can change the count to 5:10, or 6:12.
- 5-to-1 count: Say and visualize the number “5: as you take in a full deep breath in and out. Mentally count and visualize the number “4,” saying to yourself, “I am more relaxed than I was at 5.” Continue the countdown until you get to “1,” and are totally relaxed
- (This is my personal favorite for health and perspective) Concentration Breathing: The Breath of Thanks: Breathe in for 7 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale out for 7 counts. Relax and Repeat. Smile.