If we spend lots of time sitting in chairs, sofas, car seats or at incorrect working stations, the shoulders become trusted forward, tendons and muscles in the chest area shortened with the result that - if that is not prevented with proper exercise - the whole musculoskeletal structure turns weakend and inapt for correct breathing.
Too often we breathe shallowly. We are using only one half or one third of the upper lungs, so that stale air is being deposited in the lower parts making them an ideal ground for breeding colds and illnesses. When the residual gas remains thus trapped in some parts of the respiratory system, there is no space for the introduction of fresh air. It is important to squeeze out of the lungs all stagnant air, before we bring in new air rich with nurturing oxygen. That is why in in order to inhale deeply, we must first exhale completely.
In the practice of yoga postures or asanas, the emphasis is on the development of both strength and elasticity of all muscles involved in breathing. It is important to be or to become able to draw the shoulders back and down; to open entirely the chest and rib cage; as well as to lower and lift the muscle known as the diaphragm, which is making the lungs expand and contract.
In Raja Dhiraja Yoga that is accomplished with the regular practice of the following asanas: Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose, Dhanurasana or Bow Pose among the backbends; Diirga Pranam or Long Salutation, Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog and many others.
While doing yoga asanas, you can notice the following sensations in your chest: openness, lightness and readiness to receive a full breath. A higher intake of oxygen reinvigorates your whole body, each organ and cell. Deep breathing in asanas makes you more awaken, energetic at the same time still, unfatigued.
It is known that when they are relaxed, babies and children breath deeply, diaphragmatically. Shallow breathing is linked to states of agitation and anxiety, even to panic attacks in adults, like for instance before public speaking or flying in aircrafts.
How do you breath deeply?
You can sit down on a chair or floor with the spinal column straight, and if you put one hand on the abdomen, you will observe the process better. Start inhaling slowly through nostrils, while at the same time expanding first your abdomen, secondly your chest and lastly your clavicles. In the second moment, begin exhaling gradually through nostrils while squeezing abdomen, chest and clavicles.
That kind of diaphragmatic or yogic breathing is used in Raja Dhiraja Yoga. Air is flowing in and out through nostrils while the mouth is kept closed. While holding the asanas in stillness, our active attention is on the unbroken, steady and rhythmic flow of the inhale and exhale.
The purpose of many practices in yoga is to restore deep breathing into something easy and natural, habitual. Even when you are not on a yoga mat, it will become again part of the way you move, the way you act in this world. With a full breath and full presence of body and mind.
Photo courtesey by Adilson Ramos for Dunas de Sal
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Tanja Nikolic – Tarini Devi
Certified Yoga Teacher