- Yogic breaths mostly flow in and out of the nose (apart from the Simha breath on the exhale). Within the nostrils there are tissue structures called turbinates that filtrate, heat and humidify the air (the lungs don’t like anything cold, it causes them to contract). The function of the turbinates - during yogic breaths and particularly the Ujjayi breath - is essential for moistening the skin (as the lungs moisten the skin) and strengthening the flow of prana (as prana animates the lungs).
- We live in a largely sedentary society, sitting at desks in slouched positions that limit our lung capacity and as a result we take shorter breaths and deplete our bodies of its most vital resource. In addition, there are not as many trees as there used to be which diminishes our oxygen supply. Our environment is greatly affecting the quality and intake of our oxygen. A sedentary person who is deep in thought tends to hunch over and their muscles become increasingly tense as their breaths become shorter and shorter. Therefore, through the combined conscious practice of asana and breathing you are optimizing your organ function, increasing blood flow and releasing muscle tension.
- Consciously using the Ujjayi breath throughout asana practice helps to stimulate the cerebral cortex - otherwise known as the more evolved area of the brain - to balance and calm the emotions. Practicing Ujjayi during asana provides us with a tool to raise our mental awareness from the primitive or instinctual tendencies to evolved and elevated thinking. ‘The cerebral cortex sends inhibitory impulses to the respiratory center in the midbrain. These inhibitory impulses from the cortex overflow into the area of the hypothalamus, which is concerned with emotions, and relax this area. This is why slowing down the breath has a soothing effect on your emotional state.’
- Your body has 72,000 nadis (subtle energy channels) which prana flows through. There are three main nadis, known as Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. Ida is concerned with the calming and cooling energy, associated with the moon and originates at the Muladhara chakra spiraling upwards and ending at the left nostril. Pingala is concerned with a heating energy, associated with the sun and also originates at the Muladhara chakra but spirals upwards to end at the right nostril. Sushumna is the central channel where kundalini moves. At different stages of the day either Ida or Pingala are dominant, however with certain pranayama practices you can clear any blockages to activate Ida and Pingala evenly. This results in a balance of energy rising up through Sushumna.
- Utilising full yogic breaths during asana helps to deliver oxygen more efficiently to every cell in the body; improve mental concentration and physical stamina; and remove toxins from the bloodstream and lymphatic system from the resulting increased blood circulation.
By Alyssa McLeod
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The Importance of Breath in Yoga – Ekhart Yoga. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/the-importance-of-breath-in-yoga. [Accessed 30 August 2016].
DOYOUYOGA.COM. 2016. Why Is Breath So Important in Yoga?. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.doyouyoga.com/why-is-breath-so-important-in-yoga/. [Accessed 30 August 2016].