The next branch of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is Pranayama, or breath control. Breathing technique and yoga postures go hand in hand. You may have heard me say in class, “If you’re not breathing, you’re not doing yoga.”
Well obviously -- if you’re not breathing, you’re not alive either. What I’m really saying is that it’s important to be sure you don’t hold your breath, especially when you’re doing a balance pose or one that requires a lot of strength or effort. If you find yourself doing so, pause for a moment and take a long, slow inhalation through your nose. Then let it out, again through your nose, allowing your strength to intensify and your concentration to deepen.
Breathing slowly and deeply helps to oxygenate your body, makes you feel calmer and more centered, and aids the body in eliminating toxins. Most of the time during a yoga practice, we breathe this way, but occasionally we take quick and/or shallow breaths to help move energy. There are Pranayama (breathing) techniques to build heat, cool the body down, build energy, calm the body down, improve concentration, release emotional/energy blockages, and so much more. Experimenting with different breathing techniques can add a whole new dimension to your yoga practice.
If you’re interested in exploring the different ways breathing techniques can enhance your yoga practice, look for my Breathing Basics/Pranayama workshop, which I run at least once each year (usually in the winter or spring).