Yoga Bites appears every four weeks.
Are you still breathing? I bet you inhaled a tad deeper just now after I brought it to your attention.
We spend far too much time being unaware of our breathing. Conscious breathing is a simple and powerful way to increase vitality and clarity, decrease stress and anxiety, regulate moods, enliven and even enlighten.
Breathing exercises can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Becoming aware of the breath instantaneously shifts one into a higher consciousness, and profoundly into the present moment.
Pranayama, the yogic practice of breath control, is much more than
breathing exercises. Prana is Sanskrit for the energy and life force
that permeates the universe at all levels. Yogis feel that we are
breathing in much more than life-sustaining oxygen with every
There is a secret to deep breathing, and it is this: begin at the end. Deep, healing breaths begin with a complete exhalation.
Try it: inhale deeply through your nose and let it out effortlessly,
then squeeze your abdominal muscles to press out even more. Afterward
you'll naturally drink in a deeper inhalation. With practice over time,
mindful breathing will soon become second nature, and revolutionize your
When you feel anxious or worried, how do you breathe? Quick and
shallow, almost as though struggling to keep your head above water,
right? How about when you feel calm and content? Slow, deep and full, as
though being embraced by a beloved at sunset.
Throughout most of each hectic day our breathing fluctuates
erratically in reaction to a myriad of physical and mental stimuli.
Yoga teaches us that we can control our emotions and mood by breathing
consciously, just as our erratic auto-pilot breathing can affect our
Lie on your back and place one hand on your belly and the other on
your chest. Breathing in and out through your nose, begin to gradually
deepen and lengthen each respiratory cycle. Feel the breath effortlessly
lift your belly and float your chest. Imagine on an inhale that you are
drawing oxygen deep down to the very bottom of your lungs. Drink it in
and fill up to the middle of your lungs, then sip in even more air into
the very top of your lungs. Pause calmly at the top of the inhale
before exhaling slowly through the nose, as you press out every last
Continue breathing fully here for as long as you like. How do you
feel? Now place both hands on either side of your ribcage, and feel your
inhalation expand you from the inside out, and then the exhalation hugs
you into center. Breathe easy and free. Breathe in positive, healing,
loving light, and breathe out anything you don't want, any outer or
inner body tensions, all negativity. Can you feel as though you are
being breathed rather than "doing" the breathing?
Now release your hands out to your sides, soft palms turn skyward.
Feel the ebb and flow of each breath wave. Imagine that your belly is
the ocean and your chest is the shore. Feel the breath wave rise
effortlessly in the ocean of your belly, and washing wash up onto the
shore of your chest. Now allow the breath wave to recede naturally down
the shore of your chest, back into the ocean of your belly, giving rise
to the next breath wave cycle. Ride the waves.
Commonly we are told to "take" a breath. Let's shift our perspective
and view each breath as the precious gift that it is. The gift of life. A
life with no guarantees of another breath or moment. Receive the gifts
of each new moment with a thankful, open heart, and breathe easy.
Sarah Hundley, a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist,
owns Shambala Studio in Crescent City. Email her at