The Science Of Breath
By Nate Metz, The Green Shaman
Practicing mindfulness of your breath is perhaps the simplest way to improve your quality of life.
Your entire life, you breathe. It’s automatic, every moment of every day. It’s crucial to life. The brain stem monitors oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, adjusting the depth and duration of each inhale/exhale cycle. But, have you ever considered paying attention to this life function?
Why the breath?
Mindfulness and exercises of the breath are called pranayama (translated: life-force extension), and is one of the foundational principles in yoga. Breath is important in many other Eastern studies, all fitness programs and increasingly part of preventative holistic health practices.
Each yoga class, I begin with cues to draw attention to your breath. It calms the central nervous system, quiets the mind and creates a deeply-felt wave of relaxation and wellbeing no matter your skill level or experience. A continued, regular practice of pranayama can help regulate your mood, increase energy levels, improve mental clarity and focus, ease digestive concerns and enable you to cope with stressors in a positive way.
You can take pranayama with you into any time in your life. Because they are simple, cost no money, require no additional props it is easy to see why you should consider the practice.
How to breath
It sounds a little strange to have to learn how to breathe properly, but I assure you that the long-term benefits far outweigh your initial investment. There are several types of pranayama, so you can find one that you like to start and over time, try more.
Counting your breath is the simplest way to bring mindfulness to your breath. Simply count to 3 with each inhalation and again to 3 on the exhalation. As you practice, you can increase your count, starting with the exhale. The exhales should always be the same or longer as the inhale, and you should never feel like you are gasping for breath. The focus is not on how high you can count, but on the evenness and continuity of breath.
The primary pranayama taught in yoga class is the ujjayi breath (translated: victorious breath). You achieve this sounding breath by tightening the glottis muscles in the throat. By constricting the airway in this manner, the respiration of your breath makes a whooshing sound similar to ocean waves or Darth Vader. Practice this constriction by exhaling through the mouth as though you are fogging up a mirror. Once you identify the proper constriction, repeat the exhale with the mouth closed while maintaining the sound. The ujjayi is complete when you inhale and exhale through the nostrils with a relaxed jaw and closed mouth and still hear the deep breathing.
I like the sound of this
Pranayama is a core practice in all of the yoga classes taught at Kaya Wellness Center. Drop-in to any of our classes, mat or aerial, to learn more about the positive impact of mindful breathing techniques and experience them yourself. A full schedule is available on our website [www.kayawellnesscenter.com] or stop by the studio.
It is also a great way to begin a practice of meditation. We have a bi-weekly silent meditation group, led by David Elder, that meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM. Check out our workshops tab on our schedule to see which weeks we meet.
You may also sign-up for individual instruction where you will go through a guided meditation and learn several beginner and intermediate pranayama techniques that can be added to your holistic wellness plan.
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