5. July, 2012Uncategorized Comments Off on What’s breath got to do with it…

If you have attended a yoga class, chances are good that you have been invited to deepen your breath. You may even have heard it referred to as Ujjayi breathing, Darth Vador breath or ocean breath. Whatever the adjectives used to describe it, it becomes clear that this breathing is part of the practice. As teachers we have been queuing students to continually expand their breath to increase their lung capacity, flush toxins and message internal organs for years. Even I have caught myself wondering, “Ok, ok. But really, how does this work?”

Ujjayi, pronounced (oo-jy-ii), a Sanskirt word with an English translation: to conquer, to be victorious refers to a deeper, fuller breath. When we inhale, oxygen enters in through the nose or mouth, flows into the windpipe and fills the lungs. Our lungs are made of tiny air sacs surrounded by a spider web of blood vessels. The blood vessels wait patiently for an inhalation and then distribute new oxygenated blood out to the entire body. Any waste and toxins, such as carbon dioxide are removed through exhalation. The act of breathing fuels our body with oxygen and life.

The lungs are not the only heavy lifters in our breathing process. The diaphragm, which acts as a pump moving up and down with each inhalation and exhalation, assists us with delivery of breath to the lowest corners of the lungs and messages the abdominal organs. The intestines, spline and liver all benefit from the increased circulation created by the diaphragm through deep belly breathing.

Want to see how this works? Try this; place one hand over your abdomen and one hand over your chest. Take a breath. Which hand rose with your inhale?

If the hand over your chest rose, you are breathing into the top portion of the lungs, often referred to as thoracic breathing. Think: rib cage only. If the hand over your abdomen rose then you are reaching the lowest corners of your lungs. Notice the expansion in your belly as you breath in fully. Feel that friend, that is YOGA.