To understand the yogic breath, we have to observe the natural breathing in an infant. As babies we breathe naturally, without any distortions. If you look at a baby during sleep, the breath is slow and rhythmic. The belly goes up and down, expanding and contracting with ease. This is a fully relaxed breath.
When we are relaxed, we breathe from our abdomen. When we are tense, the breath tends to be short and comes from the chest and the neck region. The contraction and expansion of the abdomen is caused by the diaphragm moving up and down. The air is only filled in the lungs. But the belly movements are caused by a pressure difference due to the movement of the diaphragm. A full deep breath happens when the diaphragm moves downwards causing the belly to expand fully, along with the chest and the neck region.
What causes unnatural breathing habits?
Yogic breath is not just breathing from the belly. It is a complete breath. A complete breath involves breathing from the abdomen, chest and neck. This is the natural way to utilize the full capacity of the lungs, which includes abdominal expansion, thoracic expansion and clavicular (neck region) expansion.
Now, this relaxed full breath can get disturbed when we are tense or stressed out. During stress, we tend to breathe more from the chest and neck. Over a period of time this may become a habit, and we forget the natural relaxed way of breathing.
Natural breathing is also distorted by bad work postures. Observe yourself when you are working on the computer and see how different postures affect your breathing. By observation and awareness of our movements and postures, we can correct these postures and develop natural, healthy breathing habits.
It is also observed that women tend to breathe from the chest and neck during pregnancy. This is natural, as the diaphragm will make adjustments to its movements to accommodate the additional weight of the fetus. What happens is that after pregnancy too, many women tend to breathe from the chest and neck (clavicular breathing) due to this acquired habit.
All this can be easily corrected by creating awareness and practicing complete yogic breathing.
“Three-part deep breathing is the foundation of all the yogic breathing techniques,” Karunananda says. “Studies have shown that you can take in and give out seven times as much air—that means seven times as much oxygen, seven times as much prana—in a three-part deep breath than in a shallow breath.”
to be continued…
Love and Light!