Room To Breathe : Tapping Into The Power Of Your Breath

As seen in Yoga Magazine

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Take a moment to draw your awareness to your breath. Is it deep or shallow? Fast or slow? Our life is entirely dependent on breathing, but we rarely give it much thought. That is because our breath happens without effort, thanks to our autonomic nervous system, which instructs our internal organs to function even when we are not conscious of it. Unlike other systems under the control of the autonomic nervous system, the breath can also be consciously regulated. When I began to pay attention and to adjust my breathing patterns, my whole life and practice changed.   I see the same thing happen with my students as they incorporate breathing into their practices.

Even a few minutes of deep belly breathing can help you to feel more at ease and more energetic as you tune into the energetic center in your abdominal area.

You might wonder: “how does that happen?” When one regulates the breath through something called “belly breathing” or three-part breath, they are creating more capacity to take more air in. Even a few minutes of deep belly breathing can help you to feel more at ease and more energetic as you tune into the energetic center in your abdominal area. An awareness to the energetic qualities of the breath is created as it moves in and out of the body. When this happens, you are tapping into the vast power of your breath.

Regular breathing practice increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana. It clears blocked energy channels to bring about balance, calm and focus.

Try these poses to relieve tension in your torso and belly before practicing three-part-breath.

Balasana : Child's Pose

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Come to all fours in tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor. On an exhale, lengthen your “sit” bones back toward your heels and extend your arms out in front of you. Allow your forehead to lower to the mat and let your whole body release. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Parighasana: Gate Pose

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Kneel on your left leg and extend your right leg. Point your toes toward the corner of the mat. Inhale and extend arms shoulder height. Keep your sides long. Exhale and bend your upper body toward the right, reaching your right hand toward your right ankle. Sweep your left hand over your head to create length in the left side.  Stay here for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on other side.

Virabhadrasana II: Warrior II Pose

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Stand with legs about 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right and your left foot slightly to the right. Draw your hand to your heart center. Keep your left leg straight. Exhale and bend your right knee, bringing your thigh parallel with the floor and your knee directly above your ankle. Draw your palms together in front of your heart as you take five deep breaths deep into the belly.

Reverse Warrior

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From Warrior II, turn your right palm upward. On an inhale, extend your right arm up and over your head as you reach your left arm down your back leg.   Inhale deeply as you lean back to release tension in your belly and rib cage. On the next inhale, lift your torso away from your pelvis. On the exhale, rise up and back into Warrior II.   Flow back and forth between these two poses for several breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Supta Kapotasana : Supine Pigeon

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Lie on your back, then bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor. Place your left ankle on your right knee, and then draw your right knee toward your chest. Reach your hands around your thigh. Bring your right foot and shin parallel to the floor and flex your feet. Release any tension in the shoulders. Deepen your breath into your back ribs and all the way down the torso. Stay for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Viparita Karani : “Legs Up the Wall” Pose

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Sit sideways with your right side against the wall. Exhale and gently swing your legs up onto the wall, and then ease your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. If you feel pulling in the hamstrings, move away from the wall. Keep the lower back grounded to the floor.

For comfort, roll a hand towel to place under your neck.  Open the shoulder blades away from your spine and release your arms to your sides and turn your palms up. Optionally, place a yoga strap around your legs to further let go into the pose.

Incorporate Complete (Belly) Breathing

Take a moment to close your eyes and draw your awareness to the natural rhythm of your breath. If you get distracted, no worries: gently bring your awareness back to your breath.

Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over your belly.

On your next inhale, fill your belly with the breath and allow it to blow up like a balloon. On an exhale, release gently and draw your belly button toward your spine. Repeat 5-10 times.

On your next inhale, fill the belly and then draw a little more air in expanding the rib cage. On an exhale, release; first with the rib cage, then the belly button, then to the spine. Repeat 5-10 times.

On the next inhale; fill your belly, ribcage, and upper chest, expanding the area around your heart. Exhale top to bottom (belly button to the spine) for one deep, complete breath.   Repeat 5 to 10 times, or as many times as you would like.

Stay in this pose for 5 to 20 minutes. Let your breath return to normal for the last few minutes. When you are ready to come out, bend your knees halfway toward your chest and roll to one side.

Use your arms to help you sit up and have a lovely day!

Photography: Emily Elissa Photography

Hair and Make-up: Nori Blagg