We are breathing nearly every second of our lives—in, out, in out—not paying much attention to the act of it. But, when we breathe on autopilot, we are not getting as much oxygen flow to our bloodstream and tissues as we could if we were breathing mindfully. Physically, proper breathing improves heart, lung, and brain function while increasing cell production. Emotionally, it helps relax anxiety and calm depression.
You will hear this phrase often in a yoga class: “take a deep, cleansing breathe.” What they are speaking of is the enhanced intake of breath that then circulates the path of our internal body, coming in the mouth, falling to the abdomen and returning through our cells. It is also called Pranayama — pran translating as “life force,” yama meaning “control.” In short, when you extend and restrain your breath, you are ultimately in complete control of every physical and emotional aspect of your body. Breath control is the very pinnacle of Hindu yoga teachings. And if you have ever pushed through a grueling yoga class, you know that reaching certain postures occurs only when you are really breathing. When instructors say, “bring in your Pranayama breath,” it is a call to create a whisper, coming from the depth of your throat. It sounds like someone taking a deep sigh of annoyance. Contrarily, it is a meditative, rhythmic breath that helps you measure the equality and expansion of breath in the body.
To produce a deep cleansing breath
First, control the flow of oxygen to your body (this is mindful breathing.) Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose, letting the length of your exhale match the length of your inhale. Extend each breath, exhaling every last bit of air from your abdomen, until you are taking long deep breaths in and out. Your diaphragm should noticeably expand and retract. This action brings oxygen to your solar plexus (the yellow chakra.) In yoga, the solar plexus chakra sits at the center of your core, governing emotional health.