by Knekoh Frugé

Yogic Breathing for Your Active Practice

Sit or stand tall and try this.

As if you were fogging up a mirror, open your mouth and exhale, making a haaahhhh sound. Try again. Now, inhale through your mouth, once again making the haaahhhh sound.

Feel how that act opens your throat. Try again.

Now, close your mouth. Inhale in the same way you did with your mouth open, but this time through your nose. Feel the same opening in your throat. Exhale through your nose.

You’ll notice that you can hear yourself breathing. This is perfect! While you don’t usually hear people breathing while awake, the moment they fall asleep, breath becomes long, deep, and audible. This is exactly the breath we’re looking for. Some people pull so hard as they breathe while asleep, they cause a rattling and start to snore. While you shouldn’t pull so hard that you snore in Yoga, you should definitely hear yourself breathing.

Additionally, during our waking moments, we normally use only 50% of our lung capacity when breathing. When we sleep, we use 100% of our lung capacity, using breath in cycles to cleanse, detoxify, and rejuvenate the body. Let’s mimic this in our Yoga practice. This time, we use the breath to create openings in the body via the poses for a more thorough cleansing.

Also, in Yoga, we only breathe through the nose.

Inhale through the nose and fill your lungs. When your lungs are completely full, exhale and empty your lungs, blowing all the stale air out through your nose.

Now, check your shoulders. Instead of lifting them with the breath, you should get a sense of widening across the chest and upper back.

On the inhalation, a muscle just above the belly, the diaphragm, contracts and draws air into the lungs. As it pulls down to fill the lungs, it pushes the belly out. As you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the belly falls. When breathing, lift the ribcage up, spread across the collar bone, and extend/breathe through all 24 vertebrae to create a sense of space. Fill your lungs each time you take a breath, and empty them fully every time you exhale.

Keep this breath going throughout your Hatha Yoga practice.