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Yoga Breathing: 3 Fundamentals

It’s always good to go back to basics and practice the fundamentals. Professional athletes do it regularly. It’s a good refresher and lets you know you have a good foundation.

In yoga, breath is fundamental to every practice and is at the foundation of what makes yoga … yoga because focusing on it brings your attention inward.FB copy 2

Following are 3 fundamentals that form the foundation of bringing conscious, focused breathing into your yoga practices. Practicing them will bring a renewed sense of connection with your breath.  

Fundamental 1: Observation

When you bring your attention to your breath, you’ll notice how breathing moves your body. Inhaling is typically expansive, while exhaling is contracting. Feel the rhythm of your breath and body moving together.

Continue breathing and observing. Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Where is my breath located during inhale, i.e. what parts of my body are moving?
  • Do I feel the inhalation in my chest, belly, back? Where?

Take a few moments to observe. There are no wrong answers. It is where it is. Then focus on your exhalation and ask yourself the same questions.

The important point is to observe yourself breathing throughout your yoga practice. You’ll probably notice that you breathe more easily in some postures than in others.

Fundamental 2: Four Parts

Most of the time we’re too busy to notice but your breath has 4 parts (unless your hyperventilating). Yoga gives you the opportunity to experience all 4 parts, which are:

  • Inhale
  • Pause after inhale, a/k/a retention
  • Exhale
  • Pause after exhale, a/k/a suspension

The parts occur when doing seated breathing and when moving through the postures. In fact, focusing on the 4 parts of your breath while doing the postures will slow you down and make your movements more mindful and meditative.

Personally, I’ve found the pauses help me slow down and become more mindful of my breathing.

Fundamental 3: Envelope Breathing

In yoga, we want to co-ordinate the length and pace of each movement with the length and pace of the breath. At the end of movement you want to have a little breath remaining so you don’t ever have that “running out of breath” feeling.

Take the standing forward bend as an example:

  • While inhaling raise your arms over head
  • Pause
  • While exhaling move into the forward bend
  • Pause
  • While inhaling return to standing upright with arms over head
  • Pause
  • While exhaling lower your arms to your sides or move into another forward bend

That’s Envelope Breathing. (1) Breath begins the posture, then (2) continues during the posture, and (3) ends the posture. If you feel short of breath or run out, move a little faster so you don’t end up holding your breath while finishing the movement.

Also, notice the 4 parts of the breath involved in the forward bend. These parts are found moving into and out of every posture.

These 3 fundamental aspects of breathing – observation, the four parts and envelope breathing – are at the core of every yoga practice. Come back to basics and try them. See if it adds a fresh dimension to your yoga experience.

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Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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