Breathing isn’t something that many people give a great deal of thought to unless they have trouble catching their breath, Daniele Jarman of Sarasota explains. As an autonomic process, the breath occurs whether we concentrate on it or not — which is a darn good thing! When you being to practice yoga, however, you will soon find that the breath, or pranayama, is every bit as important as the poses, or asanas, themselves. In fact, many yogis consider pranayama to be the pinnacle of a yoga practice.
Teacher Danielle Jarman of Sarasota says that it’s not uncommon for beginners to feel overwhelmed by or even confused about yoga’s obsessive focus on the breath. Knowing a bit about why it’s so important can help you go with the flow! Today we’re taking a look at the benefits of good breath hygiene.
In With the Good…
You already know that if you’re upset, taking a moment to slow your breath can result in lowered heart rate and blood pressure — and ultimately, a cooler head. But there are even more science-backed benefits to controlled breathing techniques, according to Daniele Jarman of Sarasota.
Regular breath exercises can lead to better lung health, improved metabolism, and an increase in cardiovascular stamina. A study out of Harvard University described a link between breathwork and the suppression of genetic pathways related to inflammation.
Deep breathing increases the level of oxygen in your blood, giving you a boost of energy, says Danielle Jarman of Sarasota. Better concentration and a renewed clearness of mind are two other benefits of focused, mindful breathing.
…Out with the Bad
According to a paper published in the medical journal Cognition & Emotion, controlling our inhalations and exhalations can mean a 40% reduction in negative emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness. That’s not too shabby!
Lastly, there is even evidence that breathwork can affect levels of leptin in the body. What’s leptin and why should you care about its levels? Leptin is a hormone that signals the inhibition of hunger by the brain. Proper breathing can also boost the body’s ability to burn fat. In other words, if you master your breath, you could actually lose weight.
When it comes to your breathing during a yoga class, Daniele Jarman of Sarasota says, all you really need to do at the beginning is to follow the teacher’s instructions. She or he will let you know when to inhale, whether to hold the breath for a moment, and when to exhale. Marrying the breath with your body’s movement can help you get into a pose and perform it better, prevent injury, and improve your overall experience of the practice.
As you move deeper into your exploration of yoga, you may be asked to learn certain specific types of breathwork, such as ujayii breathing, breath of fire or skull-shining breath, and alternate nostril breathing. For now, says Danielle Jarman of Sarasota, simply focusing on steady, deep breaths will be enough to help you as you begin to explore your yoga practice. Namaste!