Logically we breathe in order to absorb Oxygen and breathe out to release what is toxic to us, Carbon Dioxide. We do not have to think about it most of the time because it is automatic. Food and water is a form of energy we need to live, but our breath is our "vital life force energy".
Usually we take about 15 to 20 breaths per minute. When we feel threatened, which does not take much these days, our breath increases and becomes shallow. The heart rate and blood pressure rises quickly. Long term exposure to stress leads to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), immune disorders, damage to mental health to say the least.
The benefits of the breathing was the first thing I noticed early in my yoga practices. I am one of those people that has to see or experience in order to believe. Breathing exercises in Yoga instantly showed me I was on the right path to healing myself. That is what gave me the motivation to keep practicing. Through my practice, I lost over 55 lbs of baby weight twice, healed postpartum depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and ended my need for medications of any kind since 2004.
There are several breathing techniques used in Yoga, Ujjayi Breathing (Ocean Breath) being the primary exercise practiced along with the postures (Asanas). To practice this breath, sit up in a relaxed simple cross leg position (you may also sit in a chair). Take a slow deep breath into your nose, let it resonate down the back of your throat into your lungs to your diaphragm (located below your belly button). As you exhale with a half closed glottis (just behind the larynx), make a “HA” sound as if you are fogging up a mirror. When you are comfortable with this, close the mouth and breath in through the nose and out through the nose. Some teachers will use Darth Vader or ocean waves as a reference to the sound your breath makes. As you inhale, pull the air into the lower belly, rise to the lower rib cage, then the upper chest and throat. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm. Try to balance the length of your inhale with the length of your exhale, gently pushing it out. A beginner may breathe in to the count of 4 or 6 and out to the same count. This will increase over time. The length of each breathing session will depend on your discipline. You may start with just 2 or 3 minutes. That will advance to 30+ as you grow.
Ujjayi Pranayama is used primarily during yoga asana (postures) practice. Using the style of breath enables the body to build internal body heat. This strengthens the lungs and allows for a healthy flow of "life force energy" or Prana. This breathing technique also calms the mind and allows the body to focus throughout the practice, while releasing toxins. Mary Irby E-RYT and founder of White Crow Yoga states "hearing the sound of our breath helps prevent our minds from straying from outside distractions and thoughts (our worries, what were doing after class, what is going on at work, etc.). Without the mind-body connection, Yoga is just another form of exercise".
Yogic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming the mind-body.
You gain clarity of the mind, weight loss, stress reduction, lower blood pressure, physical well-being, ease anxiety and depression, increase energy, flexibility, balanced immune function, and much more. The sweetness of it all is that the breath is FREE! Yes. There is no charge to breathe. Knowing this, maybe it will motivate you to try it once a day.
If you have chronic conditions, such as low/high blood pressure or asthma, ask your doctor before trying any breathing techniques.