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Take A Deep Breath: The Importance of Breathing in Yoga and Beyond

Charlee Rhodes

In modern yoga, we often focus on the poses or “asanas” as we move through a class. This often leads to our perspective of yoga only being what shape we get into and how flexible we are – or aren’t. This is not the whole of yoga, and not focusing on other aspects does us a disservice in our practice.

Yoga means “yoke,” which means to unite. In yoga, we work to unite the mind, body, and breath. When we move straight into the asanas without bringing attention to our breath first, we are just moving into shapes. However, If we take the time to cultivate deep breaths, bring awareness to our breathing, and set our intention for the practice (determining our “why?”), we are able to unite these important parts of the self.

In “The Heart of Yoga,” T.K.V. Desikachar writes about how important breath is, sharing, “Prāṇāyāma (focusing on breath) is first and foremost to give us many different possibilities for following the breath. When we follow the breath, the mind will be drawn into the activities of the breath. In this way, prāṇāyāma prepares us for the stillness of meditation.”

With this in mind, each yoga movement should begin with a breath. Start simply with a seated position with arms raised. The inhale starts, and then the arms lift. As the exhale begins, arms lower. This pace doesn’t have to be fast or match the pace of anyone else in a class. It is perfectly okay to be a pose or a few poses behind the class, or you can do this alone!

Tapping into your breathing in this way also allows for increased mindfulness regarding movement and overall bodily awareness, letting us exist more in our bodies and less in our minds.

In fact, deep breathing can lower resting blood pressure, slow your heart rate, reduce stress and anxiety, improve blood oxygenation, and stimulate lymphatic drainage to help detoxify the body.

Despite these known health benefits, it can be hard to maintain awareness of our breath during the day. Even when reading this, what is your breath like? Is it deep? Is it shallow? We often don’t realize when we are holding our breath, or when our breathing has changed, maybe during intense situations. Our bodies don’t understand the difference between the stress of missing a deadline and the stress of being chased by a wild animal or other danger. When we take the time to attempt to control our breath, we can control our reactions.

As you incorporate this into your life, start small. Maybe even now, take a deep inhale, hold it for a count of five, and slowly release it.

Bringing awareness to your breath and body can make all the difference, even if you aren’t on a yoga mat.

Charlee Rhodes works at HopeHealth as the development and events coordinator. She is also a yoga instructor and the owner of CrissCross Yoga, offering classes in Florence, Lake City, and surrounding areas.

Julia Derrick

Julia Derrick

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