Breath in Yoga is described as 'Prana' or Life Force. It is the very basic element of life. Without breath, life cannot exist. Hence, a body which breathes smooth and easily is one that is believed to be healthy.
In yoga, one must have a balanced intake of breath before moving onto doing complex asanas, or postures. Advanced asanas not only require the body to be loose and flexible but also need a healthy breathing system to be able to process and carry oxygen to various body parts.
To determine whether you have a good breathing technique to undertake basic yoga, one can try out certain tests. One of the most basic tests is to lie down on your back and place a hand on your chest and breathe normally. There should be very little movement of the chest whilst breathing. If you find that your chest is moving a lot then you may be breathing inefficiently. This can be rectified by practicing some basic deep breathing exercises which will not only help to calm down the muscles of the lungs and the heart, but also help calm your mind.
Once the basic breathing technique has been established, you should notice a significant change when doing your yoga postures. Focusing on a slow, relaxed breathing pattern while practicing yoga gives you better control over your movements and also reduces your chance of injury.
However, yoga is not only about doing various asanas and stretching your limbs into various positions. It has a more holistic goal; that of a healthy mind. Both of these can certainly be helped by a clear breathing pattern.
Correct breathing also has deeper health benefits. Slow, relaxed and deeper breathing helps to calm the mind and body. This has proven beneficial to patients who have complained of high blood pressure and anxiety. A deep breath while doing yoga can also reassure your mind that you are in better command of your body. This may help in reducing stress levels as well.
Focusing on your breath while doing yoga exercises can also act as a form of meditation. Whilst doing yoga, it is possible for the mind to wander (gasp!). At moments like these, gently bringing your focus back on to your breathing (and at the same time, make sure you don’t punish yourself mentally for the digression). Just focusing on your breath is a great way to remain rooted in the present. This technique can also help you improve your powers of focus and concentration.
As you can see, focusing on breathing whilst doing yoga benefits the mind, body and the soul. It helps the body increase the flow of blood and oxygen, the mind by helping it to relax and reducing stress levels, and the soul by getting rid of its worries and focusing purely on the present moment.
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