Yogic breathing incorporates breathing practices which can help you to improve your health and vitality. The way you breathe can have a significant effect on your health. Our life is so dependent on breathing that we cannot live without air even for a few minutes. We live as long as we breathe. Our energy balance is always determined by the breathing rate, depth and quality of breath. Therefore, our breathing process needs to be optimised.
When we inhale, the oxygen comes in contact with the blood. The blood takes up oxygen and releases carbon dioxide gas as a form of waste products and toxins gathered by blood from all parts of body. Most of people resort to shallow breathing as a result of sedentary lifestyle, illness or stress etc. Shallow breathing leaves you with insufficient oxygen and also hampers proper elimination of toxins and waste from our body. This leads to tiredness, lethargy, sleeplessness and many other diseases. Breathing action is automated by the responses generated by our brain. However, breathing process can be transformed into a semi-voluntary muscle by an effort of the will.
Yoga breathing is not the same as deep breathing. Though deep breathing and rhythmic breathing but yogic breathing is more a meditative practice where each breath is considered a gift of God. Moreover, yogic breathing (pranayama) when adopted as an integral part of yoga practice along with asanas will produce better results.
"Prana," is a Sanskrit word meaning "Absolute Energy". We can think of it as a vital force found in all life forms. Prana is present in the atmospheric air and we get it inside our body while breathing. When we breathe we inhale a portion of the prana energy, a vital force that permeates the space all around us. An average person breathes 12 to 15 times in a minute. Idea of yogic breathing is to reduce this number to 5-8 per minute through pranayama and yoga. You must have noticed that person under stress or suffering form chronic diseases needs more oxygen and if they are not used to deep breathing their breathing rate increases considerably.
Rhythmic breathing during pranayama and asanas helps in better focusing and improve concentration. You can count inhalations and exhalations to monitor your progress.
One of the requirements of correct breathing is to breathe through nose, and avoid mouth breathing. During mouth breathing, there is no filter to prevent dust particles from reaching the lungs. Also, incorrect breathing admits cold air to the organs, thereby increasing the chances of infections. However, nostrils serve as a filter to remove impurities in the air and warm up the inhaled air so that cold air does damage our throat and lungs. Breathing through the nose is axiomatic to invoking the parasympathetic nervous system and the attendant relaxation response.
As per Yoga Philosophy, complete exhalation is prerequisite for perfect inhalation. During exhalation, expel as much as used air as possible from the lungs. At the end of exhalation, contract the abdominal muscles to expel more air. While inhaling, inhale slowly, deeply and evenly keeping the mouth closed. During inhalation and exhalation, keep your mouth closed and breathing should be gradual so that it does not produce any sound. The volume of air which the lungs can contain is the vital capacity of the lungs. With regular and patient practice, lung capacity can be increased number of times.
By becoming aware of your breathing, you can be conscious of your breathing pattern and try to improve it. Practice rhythmic deep breathing during the course of day without straining your body, over a period of time your breathing will become deep and relaxed. Deep breathing can be done even by busy people while cooking, reading a book, working on your PC, commuting to office, sitting or standing. Remember to take few deep breaths when you feel low on energy.
While breathing, express your gratitude that God has given you so much energy and that too free of cost. You will instantly start feeling better by invoking spiritual aspect of breathing. Think of breathing as if we are getting the gift of god which can make us healthy, happy and will help us spiritually also. You can control your thinking, your emotions and your life if you can control your breathing.
More oxygen rich blood to brain, heart, lungs and digestive organs as a result of correct breathing will make this organs work better and further bolster your health and make you to keep your cool and face the stress of modern life in a relaxed manner.
Yoga breathing helps to experience relaxation response which makes your mind, body and muscles relaxed by deepening your breathing, slowing down your heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Yogic deep breathing can help you to improve the flow of your lymph system thereby helping the body to get rid of toxins. Yogic breathing techniques are extremely effective in handling depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. Here is a link to an excellent article on deep breathing and yoga. Yoga recognizes diaphragmatic, intercostal, and clavicular as three separate forms of breathing. Complete yogic breathing combines all three, and constitutes the ideal technique.