Updated: Sep 30, 2020
"When the breath wanders, the mind also is unsteady.
But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life.
Therefore, one should learn to control breath."
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika
There's so much change happening in our lives right now. We do not fully understand or control what is happening but we can take control of how we respond to it and who or what we engage with. With all the stressful conditions around us results in shallow breathing.
The secret to life, health and rejuvenation lies in our breath. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing before we leave our body. We came into this world equipped with this knowledge but we lost it as we grew older due to our posture, sucking our tummies in wanting to look slimmer, static lifestyle, stress and loss of our reflexes which in turn caused our systems to contract and tighten our muscles.
If you suffer with neck, shoulder pain, lower back pain, bad digestion, low quality sleep or bad posture, you possibly are breathing from your chest and not engaging your abdomen.
Breathing from the chest:
1. Engages the muscles in the chest area which are meant to assist breathing during high intensity exercises.
2. Causes bad posture.
3. Places strain on our spines.
4. Limits movement of our abdominal organs which might lead to stuck emotions and inflammation.
5. Results in tension in our neck and shoulder muscles.
6. It consumes our energy.
Diaphragmatic breathing which is the healthy method of breathing:
1. Increases blood circulation hence distribution of oxygen to our tissues and brain.
2. Increases lymphatic movement, hence better immune system and better skin complexion.
3. Balances the nervous system.
4. Reduces muscular tension.
5. Improves memory and quality of sleep.
6. Improves health of our cells and skin.
7. Massages the internal organs, hence better digestion and less held emotions.
8. Helps with pelvic floor muscles.
9. Supports the lower back.
10. Aids in healthy cortisol production.
Diaphragmatic breathing, inhale & exhale, is done through the nose by engaging the diaphragm, back muscles and lower abdomen. The abdomen expands forward, the lower ribs sideways and the lower back muscles slightly backwards.
A good posture should not feel the weight of our head on our shoulders. To experiment, take your head very slightly back - feel the weight and strain of your head, then bring your head slightly forward - feel its weight. Now adjust your head until it feels light and weighless with no tension on the shoulders - that is a good posture that will assist in diaphragmatic breathing and opening.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the heart is the emperor of all our organs. It is in charge of mental activities, conciousness, happy feelings, sleep, thoughts. The healing sound for the heart is HAAA, as the sound we make while exhaling with contentment.
When there is too much fire in the heart, which is the element associated with it, we experience impatience, cruelty, disrupted sleep, or unkindness. When there is harmony we feel happy, sleep well and patience.
This exercise will help balance the heart energy and help with diaphragmatic breathing.
Find a quiet place and come to presence. Be here in the body now, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Feel the seat under you and the ground beneath your feet. Feel where in your body you feel tension.
Rub your hands together and connect to your heart by placing them on your heart and smile to it. Listen while it beats gently and experience the softening and opening of the heart space.
Once connected, inhale deeply and exhale the sound HAAA while lifting your arms high above your head, palms facing up, tilting your upper body slightly to the right in order to open up your heart space.
Gently inhale deeply, hands flow back down with palms placed back on the heart and allow the good virtues of the heart blossom in your heart space.