The Wind of Your Body

The practice of controlling breath in yoga is Pranayama, which literally translates into “controlling (ayama) the breath of life (prana).” Breath is constant, and you can always tune into it. Some of us, however, suffer from poor breathing techniques or simply do not give our breath enough time in our day to do much more than keep us alive. Practicing a few easy back-bending poses can open the way (literally) for tuning into the wind of your

Back bends open your chest and draw attention to your breath. If something is difficult, like a yoga pose, we tend to hold our breath while focusing intently on “getting it right.”  To properly breathe in yoga, your inhalation begins in the abdomen and then moves up into the chest, filling your lungs. On exhalation, visualize emptying your chest first, followed by your abdomen. Remember, yoga breathing flows entirely in and out of the nose, not through the mouth. With these next poses, focus entirely on your breath first and technique second.

The Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) begins lying on your belly. Draw your legs together and point your toes away from your legs. Place your hands by your middle ribs, palms flat on the ground. On an inhalation, press your hands down evenly, slowly, as you lift your torso off the ground and look up toward the ceiling. It is very important to perform this pose slowly. You can modify the pose by propping yourself up on your elbows, allowing your spine to elongate into its full arc. Now hold the pose for 10 breaths.

The Cow Pose (Bitilasana) is very easy on the body and allows you to explore how breathing can relax the mind and move you into deep meditation. Start the Cow Pose on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your wrists and elbows are in line with your shoulders. Your head should be in a neutral position, and you can practice Drishti on a spot on the floor. On an inhalation, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, letting your belly drop toward the floor. As you exhale, you can return to the “tabletop” position or move into Cat Pose (Chakravakasana) for an easy vinyasa.

Not only is it vital that you do these poses without straining; it is important that the focus you place on breathing also does not cause strain. Although it seems that breathing is natural to us, proper yoga breathing takes practice.

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