“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady but when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life”‘ – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Anatomical focus : Diaphragm
Asana practice and breath control/pranayama can greatly improve our overall well being by improving the strength, flexibility and mobility of the muscles used for respiration. We generally are using our diaphragm 70% and our intercostals 30% when we breathe.
Through regular pranayama practice; the breath will have greater quality and the number of breaths will reduce as the quality improves. The yogi develops a greater awareness of the breath and the breath will become an anchor holding you steady in your everyday lives.
Deepening the inhalation and strengthening the diaphragm results in the diaphragm contracting more fully, pressing onto the digestive organs and causing the belly to expand. On exhalation the diaphragm is releasing, forming a dome back up inside your rib cage and pushing the air out of your lungs.
Strengthening the diaphragm and deepening the breath will reduce anxiety caused by shallow breathing. The superior vena cava is stimulated greatly with diaphragmatic breathing, returning venus blood back to the heart. Hiatus hernias are also prevented when the diaphragm is strengthened.
Everyday changes to improve the quality of your breath
Inhale into your belly and then into your chest feeling the belly expanding, the upper back arching and the collar bones widening.
Exhale with awareness on your root/maladhara chakra – feel the pelvic floor contracting. Exhale fully and deeply.
Count the breath, trying to encourage the inhale to be the same length as the exhale.
Imagine the breath as waves in the ocean, inhale the wave come in – exhale the wave recede. A constant and rhythmic flow.