Guest Author - Terri Johansen
Your breath is in tandem with the yoga postures that you practice. Each pose has the same distinct pattern and once you have practiced yoga for awhile you will feel the pattern emerge. In the beginning when you are first learning yoga, if you are in a class, your instructor should include the inhale and exhale as part of the directions for the pose. Once you have done this often enough you will learn how your body reaches and extends for each breath. If you are learning yoga for the first time from a book or video, the breathing patterns may be more difficult to learn. But it can be done and hopefully youíll find something here to help you.
When I went to my first yoga class I had no idea what breathing had to do with stretching and relaxing. It was years later as I studied yoga I learned about ďour life breathĒ prana. Prana is the energy force within our bodies and our breath keeps it alive. The breath helps to purify our bodies as we breathe in clean fresh air and exhale the impurities and stale air. Each pose has that moment when you can feel that it is time to inhale and when to exhale.
For example letís use Standing Forward Bend. When I teach this pose I have my students reach their arms up into the air, lifting their chest and filling with a deep inhale. Folding forward into the pose I direct them to exhale. While holding the pose the inhale and exhale should be normal and steady. Once we have held the pose for 8-10 full breaths I instruct them to inhale, lifting up out of the pose and hands sweep up the sides and back over the head. We exhale bringing our hands together in front of the heart. Practice this pose a few times and see if you can feel where and how the body wants to breathe. Listen closely and it will guide you. Here are a few examples of some different types of poses and how to recognize the breathing pattern.
It always takes a few moments to get into the pose. Some seated poses are forward bends and the breath would be like the Standing Forward Bend. But in other seated poses you donít fold forward, so how do you know when to breathe? Take for example Cobblerís Pose. Sit up tall with your head straight, face forward. Bring the soles of your feet together and place your hands on your feet or ankles. Lift your chest and inhale, relax your shoulders and exhale. You can continue this breath throughout the entire pose. Just donít let your shoulders slump as this will only impede the breath.
In a reclining twist bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor and your arms in a T. In this example you will cross your right leg over your left settling into the starting point. At this time take an inhale; exhale as you twist your body to the left. When you are ready to come out of the pose, after 8-10 breaths, take a deep breath and then exhale as you roll back to starting position.
You will begin by lying on your stomach. Letís do a Cobra pose. Place your hands under your shoulders. Your head is on the floor face down and your legs are stretched out long behind you. This is your starting position and once you are settled into it take your inhale. Lift your head, chest, face and push up with your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent, this is where you exhale. Beware: I have found that the harder the pose, and especially backbends, people begin to hold their breath, remind yourself of this.
So in conclusion, the communication of the inhale and exhale is the same with every pose. The inhale comes with the easiest or starting point of the pose and the exhale is the release of power to get into the pose. The more you practice yoga the more natural the breathing comes and soon you wonít even have to think about it at all, youíll just breathe.
Always check with a medical professional before doing yoga or any type of exercise. Practice yoga, live well.
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