By Fitness Extraordinaire, Amity Whalen, Owner Carolina Barre & Core
Breath ~ it gives us life and we spend most of our day not thinking a thing about it.
The average person takes about 23,000 breaths a day (at rest). How many of those breaths do you think you actively THINK about? Sadly, so many people would answer that question ZERO – unless they are gasping for air when doing an intense workout or actively doing a yoga class or meditating. The thing is, our breath when thought about mindfully, can do so many positive things for our bodies. Mindful breathing can release negative thoughts, reduce stress, develop self awareness and help to process emotions. It can also help you to improve anger, depression, anxiety and grief. You can even bring high blood pressure down, just by being aware of your breath!
There are many types of breathing techniques or breath work but I’d like to dive into 3 different types and the benefits that they may have.
3 Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)
Dirga Pranayama is great for someone wanting to explore breath work. It can be used for calming, grounding and focusing on the present moment. It helps you to focus on body awareness and gain focus. It also helps to oxygenate your blood.
Here is a simple way to practice 3 Part Breath at home:
– Lie on your back (can be done seated as well- but lying on your back will let you relax even more.)
– Place your hands on your belly with your middle fingers touching
– Inhale, fill up your low belly, HOLD
– Inhale, fill up your side ribs, HOLD
– Inhale ALL THE WAY UP to your collarbones, HOLD
– Gently, exhale and let go of all of your air, completely emptying lungs and belly
– Go through this sequence for about 10 rounds.
– Be careful not to overfill your lungs to the point where it is uncomfortable or painful. Your lungs should feel comfortably full. Your exhales should be smooth.
– When finished, return to your regular breath.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Nadi Shodhana is an ancient form of yogic breathing that helps to calm the body and find inner peace. It has proven to be helpful for people with chronic stress and insomnia. It enhances mental focus, removes toxins from the body and helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Loved by yogis because it is known to clear the energy channels in the body.
How to do alternate nostril breathing:
– Sit up tall, cross legged
– Using your dominate hand, make a soft fist and then release your thumb and pinky finger
– Taking your hand to your face, close one nostril with your thumb (for reference we will say right side)
– Inhale through your left nostril, close it with your pinky
– Exhale through your right nostril, and inhale again on that side and close the right nostril
– Exhale through the left and immediately inhale left side, close it off
– Exhale through the right and immediately inhale right side, close it off
– Continue this pattern several times and as your finish be mindful to close on the opposite side that your started on (full circle)
– Revert back to natural breath
Breath of Fire (Kapalabhati)
Kapalabhati is used to quickly increase heat in the body. It is also known to increase circulation, concentration and balance the nervous system.
How to breathe the Breath of Fire:
– Start SLOW – think good form over lots of reps
– Sit up tall
– Take your hand to your belly
– As you inhale, puff your belly out
– As you exhale pull your belly firmly back toward your spine (think short and quick- like a pumping motion)
– Start slow and then build speed
– Your inhale and exhale are the same length but the inhale is passive and your exhale is active
– Try starting with 3 minutes and build to 15 minutes a day.
All breath work requires a certain level of focus, therefore you will be more connected to your body and your mind no matter which one you choose. There are no downsides to being mindful, so jump in, give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose.
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