Yogic breathing techniques have the power to calm the mind instantly. Leading yoga teacher Kino MacGregor shows you how
Breathe in, breath out…Doesn’t seem like there is much to breathing, right? But when it comes to yoga, the breath can be used to calm or stimulate your mind and it can be done in a number of different ways.
The breath is the link between the conscious and the subconscious mind. Your breath is a window into your emotional state.
In yoga, just bringing your attention to your breath helps the mind become more aware of feelings and physical sensations, often ignored cues from your inner world.
Most meditation practices begin with a simple exercise of maintaining focus on the natural breath. This action directs the attention inward and helps create balance.
But, there’s even more to the breath. Ancient yogis found that you can change your emotional state simply by changing your breath.
Rather than being helpless in the face of emotional imbalance, the teaching of yoga says that simple breathing techniques can palpably shift the quality of your mind.
In yoga the breath is rooted deep within the pelvic floor. Every inhalation and exhalation is controlled by activating the perineum (that’s the fleshy part between where you urinate from and your anus).
Pelvic floor activation in combination with deep breathing has been shown to increase vagal tone and elicit the relaxation response.
As the antidote to the much-studied fight-or-flight response, being able to willingly shift the mind from panic or stress to a state of calm and connection is a valuable tool for the modern yogi.
Ahead of her Triyoga workshop in London, yoga teacher Kino MacGregor brings you three simple breathing practices to incorporate into your daily life to help you better deal with stress.
Yogi Tip # 1 – Deep breathing with sound
The breath in yoga is balanced between inhalation and exhalation and also vocalised. This encourages emotional balance and mental focus.
While there are many breathing techniques from the yoga tradition, deep resonant breathing with sound is one of the most accessible to all.
From a comfortable seated position, activate the pelvic floor. To do this, draw the muscles of the lower abdomen in towards the spine. Gently seal the lips and close the vocal chords and the epiglottis a little. Open the back of your throat and inhale. Count to 10 as you inhale and engage the pelvic floor.
Keeping the lips sealed, exhale and again vocalise the breath. Count to 10 as you exhale. Repeat this for 10 deep breaths.
Use this technique as a warm-up or cool-down for yoga. It can be used in stressful situation where you notice that your breathing or your nervous system is disturbed.
Yogi Tip # 2 – Three-part breath
This is a classic yogic technique that brings powerful de-stressing benefits. It’s basically breathing, but in three parts.
As you inhale, first feel the breath traveling from the pelvic floor up the spine until it rests at the navel. Pause for a moment.
Continuing the same inhalation, breathe in as you feel the breath traveling from the navel to the heart. Pause again for a moment.
Finally, complete the inhalation as you feel the breath traveling up the spine and all the way to the top of the head.
When you exhale, follow the same steps in reverse. This helps to extend and control the length of the breath. Be sure to equalise the length of inhalation and exhalation.
Yogi Tip # 3 – Deep belly breathing
This is a breathing technique that can be used for relaxation as well as stress relief. When you practice this over time, it will encourage diaphragmic breathing and expand lung capacity.
Try not to perform this breathing exercise while performing yoga poses or strenuous physical activity.
Lie on your back, body outstretched.
Relax the muscles of the pelvic floor, abdomen and diaphragm. Inhale and allow the belly to rise up.
Exhale and allow the belly to drop down. Extend the inhale and exhale for as long as possible in both directions. Allow yourself 10 full breaths and then relax and lie down.
While yoga poses may be intimidating and sometimes overly challenging, breathwork is truly accessible to all.
Kino MacGregor is one of the world’s most famous yoga teachers. She has two decades’ experience immersed in the study of yoga, its practice and lifestyle. If you interested in attending Kino MacGregor’s depth, power + presence: a three day ashtanga yoga journey workshop on Friday, 27 September 2019 to Sunday, 29 September 2019, or any of the individual workshops please visit: Triyoga
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