The Importance of Diaphragmatic Breathing

heather_picBy Heather Ferri

What makes Kundalini yoga different from other yogas?  Breath of Fire.  It is the heart of Kundalini yoga and can do many things for you.  The benefits of fire breath are oxygenation of blood, increased circulation, increased lung capacity, increased energy, improved digestion, and much more.  The Breath of Fire is performed through the nose with a closed mouth.  It is a rapid diaphragmatic breath in and a rapid diaphragmatic breath out.

These rapids breaths are continued for 3, 6, 11, 22, 31 minutes, or longer.  By diaphragmatic breath I mean that the belly goes out on the short inhale and in on the short exhale.  You can make this easier at first by breathing slowly and laying on your back with one hand on the stomach making sure the belly goes out on the inhale and is pulled in on the exhale.

A normal rate of respiration is 12-15 breaths per minute.  When we get anxious or stressed, that will most likely increase.  Or it might stop, you might hold your breath when you’re stressed out or feeling afraid. In Kundalini Yoga class I teach people to be very aware of their breath and consciously slow it down and control it.

For example, practicing the one minute breath in Kundalini Yoga.  The goal is to breathe once a minute by inhaling with a long, deep breath for 20 seconds, holding it in for 20 seconds, then exhaling with a long, deep breath for 20 seconds.  You don’t have to start out by doing it for this long, you might inhale for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds.  Just make the parts of breath equal.  Do this for a few minutes every day and observe how you feel.

Being in control of your breath does all kinds of amazing things for your body and state of mind and Conscious breathing is the ultimate relaxation device.  It resets and balances the brain, can enhance lung capacity, moves the fluid in your spine, cleans the blood, there is so much more.  Try it – sit with a straight spine, take a long deep breath in for at least 8 seconds as your belly goes out, then exhale for 8 seconds as your belly goes in.  Do this for 3 minutes, how do you feel?

Suspending the breath is about so much more than just holding the breath. First, you have to learn what a proper breath is. Suspending the breath on the inhale means taking an inhalation with proper form from the diaphragm, then holding that position for a few seconds. This stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and teaches your body to be calm under pressure. Suspending the breath on the exhale means exhaling completely with proper form, again using the diaphragm, and then holding the breath out for a few seconds. This lowers blood pressure and affects the parasympathetic nervous system.

Breath is the foundation to any form of exercise or movement you perform, so why not invest in a Kundalini Yoga class and learn all about the science of breathe!

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