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Yoga Insights

Yoga Breathing: Five Essential Tips

I’m sure you’ve noticed that your physical and mental condition can influence your breath and vice versa. For example, when we are angry and stressed, our breath becomes shorter, while deep breathing has a relaxing and positive influence on the body and mind. So here are a few tips to help you use your breath to your benefit.

  1. At first, just become aware of the breath.
     
    If you’re new to asanas, don’t worry too much about how you’re breathing—you have enough to do following instructions for the asanas. But as the poses become more familiar, become aware of how you’re breathing. Gradually lengthen and deepen the breath and notice how that makes you feel in the pose.
  2. Monitor your body and mind as you practice.
     
    If you’re practicing specific breathing techniques, be aware of the effects they are having on your mind as well as on your body. Stay relaxed both physically and mentally while practicing these breathing exercises. Stop if you experience any negative physical or mental effects.
  3. Don’t overdo it.
     
    Your lungs are made of delicate tissue, so treat them gently. If you’re overanxious or trying too hard, you may rush or strain your breath, which can undermine rather than improve your health. You should never feel short of breath. If you do, or if you are rushing or forcing your exhalation, it means you are taking too long to inhale and exhale and should lessen your intake of air. Inhale only as much as you can comfortably exhale without rushing the exhalation. Then gradually, as it feels comfortable, you can increase the amount of air you inhale and exhale.
  4. Keep your back straight during your breathing practice.
    Sitting with your back straight gives your lungs room to expand. If you find it hard to sit up straight, sit on the edge of a firm cushion or sit against a wall. You can even sit on a chair. Keep your shoulders relaxed, moving back and down (unless the technique requires you to lift your shoulders). You can do some yoga breathing lying down. This is especially helpful when you are learning the basics of Abdominal Breathing or Complete Yoga Breathing as it lets you focus all your attention on the breath rather than on how you are sitting.
  5. A few “don’ts.”
    • Don’t practice yoga breathing when the air is polluted. Choose a time of day when the air is cleanest, or practice indoors with an air purifier.
    • Don’t smoke. Smoking will undo whatever positive benefits you gain through correct yoga breathing. The effects of smoking and the effects of yoga breathing are exactly the opposite.
    • Don’t practice breathing exercises when you are fatigued. When you feel that you can no longer maintain the rhythm of your breathing, it usually means that your body is fatigued. This is a sign that you should stop your practice immediately.

Yoga Diet

According to the science of yoga, we can compare our bodies to vehicles that we use to travel the path of life. The food we eat is like the fuel we put in the gas tank—the better the fuel, the better the vehicle performs. What we eat has a huge impact not only on our physical well-being, but also on our mental and our spiritual well-being. So our diet is a vital component of the yoga lifestyle.

Yoga Lifestyle Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep is a wonderful thing. A good night’s sleep not only gives us a restful break between one busy day and the next, but it’s also a chance for our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. That's why when we miss our sleep, we generally feel lethargic and out of sorts the next day. We may become irritable and stressed, especially as the day wears on, and this can affect our work as well as our relationships with others. Lack of sleep can also depress the immune system, making us more likely to catch whatever virus is going around. So getting a good night’s sleep is really quite important.

Checking in with Your Body

As you may have noticed, getting on your yoga mat for an asana session is a way to check in with your body. You notice where it's tight, where there’s tension, and which areas you need to work on to build strength and increase flexibility. (You may also realize that you've waited too long between sessions!)

A True Yogi

Sometimes people who practice yoga asanas become proud of their ability to bend and twist their bodies into advanced yoga postures. They like to show off their skill and may be quite competitive in their practice. But this desire for recognition reveals an agitated mind and a sense of false pride—not the signs of a real yogi.

True yogis are humble. They may not be doing extreme backbends or advanced balancing poses; in fact, they may not be practicing asanas at all. But because they have achieved inner peace and calm through meditation, they have attained yoga’s higher goal.

German scholar

A German scholar was preparing to leave for India to learn yoga. His colleagues asked him if he was going there to learn the yoga siddhis, or mystic powers. The scholar replied that he was not. He said that the yoga siddhis or mystic perfections were already being duplicated by modern science and he was therefore not interested in them.

He told them, "The mystic yogi struggles for decades to achieve the power to levitate or the power to stay underwater for long periods of time. But with the development of airplanes and submarines, modern scientists have achieved the same aim."

Yoga for Children

Wholesome is a word we often associate with our children's well-being. We feed our kids wholesome food to nourish their growing bodies. We encourage wholesome activities to help them develop good habits and useful skills. Yoga is not only wholesome, but holistic as well. In other words, it's an activity that develops the whole child—physically, mentally, and emotionally. What's more, kids of all ages have fun doing yoga asanas and watching their balance, flexibility, and strength improve. They also learn to focus and relax.

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