Pranayama (PRA-na-YA-muh) literally translates from Sanskrit to English as Energy (Prana) Expansion (Ayam). The most common translations of Pranayama are breath or breathing. The literal translation, along with the fact that breathing is its own Limb of Yoga like Asanas / poses or Yamas / ethics, should indicate how important breath is for Yogis. Most of us who have attended classes at Yoga Studios learn quickly that Yoga is more than exercise, and Breath is both a focus and frequently its own portion of studio Yoga classes.
I wanted to cover Pranayama and Diaphragmatic Breath before getting to the detail of each Asana, because breathing is as much a part of Sun Salutations as the poses themselves! If you do not typically focus on breathing during your Yoga practice, please consider setting Breath as your intention at the start of your next session.
Today’s Daily Yogi Practice is Diaphragmatic Breath, a Pranayama Practice. We recommend incorporating this Diaphragmatic breath into your Asana practice, and bring it forward into meditation!
When I first started practicing Yoga, I was shocked to learn I was breathing “wrong.” This shallow chest breathing seems to be the American Way – try for yourself! Put one hand on your chest, and the other on your belly. Breathe in and out, and notice when the hands resting on your belly and chest move to indicate expansion. You SHOULD use your diaphragm and breathe into your belly, so your belly expands on the inhale and contracts on the exhale. Most of us breathe shallowly into our chest only, and our belly hand never moves!
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, as you did in the breathing test above.
Breathe in and make sure your belly expands, pushing your hand out as your entire torso fills with air
Breathe out, contracting the belly, making sure you empty the lungs completely
Continue breathing in to a full count of 6, and out to a full count of 6, using your diaphragm to fill your lungs with air, and contract the belly to empty lungs completely. Focus on keeping your chest hand fairly still, and using your diaphragm to breathe into your belly.
This is the first part of Three-Part or Yogic Breath!
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Please comment and let me know what you thought of this Pranayama exercise! Do you incorporate diaphragmatic breathing like this, or other Pranayama into your Asana practice? Do you have another Pranayama practice you particularly enjoy? Always remember, be kind!