Power of Breath / Pranayama
Mini Lesson in Yogic or Three Part Breath
by Bette Phelan
act of breathing is the body's most vital and basic function, yet many
of us pay little attention to our breath. We have never learned how to
Learning to breathe properly can greatly improve your
health and reduce the impact of stress on your body.
You've probably heard someone say to you when you are upset, "Take
a deep breath." That is good advice! Our emotions are directly
linked to our breathing. The next time you are upset or angry notice
how you are breathing. You may not be breathing at all! If you take
the time to learn Yogic Breath it can become a tool to reduce the
impact of stress on your body.
When we breathe deeply, the impact of negative emotions on our
bodies is greatly reduced. Also, every organ in our bodies needs
oxygen to function properly. When we practice yogic or three-part
breath, we oxygenate our blood so that every organ in the body
begins to function better. Deep breathing also calms the mind, which
creates a sense of well being and leads to vibrant health.
TRY THIS EXERCISE
Take a moment to close your eyes and notice how you are
breathing. Yes, take a moment to do it now.
What did you notice? Is your breathing deep or shallow? What
part of your torso are you breathing into? Does your belly move when
you breathe? Does your rib cage expand?
Yogic Breath is sometimes called 3-part breath because we
breathe into 3 areas of the torso to facilitate getting a complete
Step One - Belly Breath
To begin, sit up straight and tall (sitting in a straight back
chair with your feet firmly on the ground works well) and place your
hand on your belly. Exhale fully while pulling your belly in to expel
all of the stale air out of your lungs. Once all of the air is out,
relax your belly. Notice how the belly automatically wants to expand
as the air comes in. Let the belly blow up like a balloon as the air
comes in. Continue breathing into the belly for a few more rounds. The
belly goes in as the breath comes out, and the belly goes out as the
breath comes in.
Step Two - Thoracic Breath
Now let go of the belly breath and place your hand on your rib
cage, under your arm. As you exhale, allow the rib cage to contract.
As you inhale, expand the rib cage. Let the breath be slow and full
without any sense of straining. All the breathing should be through
your nose. Try it a few more times.
Step Three - Upper Chest Breath
Let go of the thoracic breathing and place your hand on the soft
area above your clavicle. As you breathe in, notice how the clavicle
rises slightly. Allow it to rise without lifting your shoulders. As
you breathe out the clavicle falls. It should feel like the air is
coming down to an area just above the breasts. Try it for a few more
rounds. Remember to breathe slowly. If you feel light headed or dizzy,
increase your exhalation and decrease your inhalation.
Step Four - Combine Three Areas into One Long Breath
Place one hand on your belly and the other on your rib cage,
under your arm. Sit up nice and straight and relax your face and jaw.
Take a couple of relaxed breaths. Now exhale fully, pulling the belly
in as you exhale. When you cannot exhale any further, relax the belly
and allow the air to fill your belly. The belly will blow up like a
balloon. Once the belly is full, allow the air to begin to expand the
rib cage. When this area is full, continue breathing in and let the
upper chest fill, the clavicle will rise slightly. As you exhale, it
is just the opposite. The air goes out of your upper chest, then
middle, then lower.
It may be helpful to image a glass of water. When the water is
poured into the glass, it fills the bottom then middle and then top.
When you pour it out, it goes out of the top, then middle, then
bottom. The breath is the same.
Learning to breathe properly is a little bit like learning to
play an instrument. It takes time and practice to perfect it. It's
best to start slowly and attend to the details until you can feel each
area filling during a single breath. Over time it will become easier.
If the diaphragm and other muscles used in breathing have not been
used in a long time, they may need to build up strength and
flexibility gradually. I suggest practicing Yogic Breath first thing
in the morning before you get out of bed. Take the pillow out from
under your head and time yourself. Five minutes a day of yogic breath
will have a dramatic impact on your health and sense of well being.
If you would like to begin practicing yogic breath and yoga
postures today, we highly recommend that you consider ordering
Yoga for Strength,
Flexibility, Vitality and Relaxation led by Bette Phelan.
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