In Hatha Yoga we seek to balance the opposite conditions of the human experience, to experience them at the same time so to speak. So, how? You become relaxed in an easy condition and then slowly work into appropriately challenging yoga poses while staying relaxed. Good technique helps so you should always find a teacher who also seems relaxed in their own practice. Even in challenging Asana, attempt to breath slower and feel more relaxed while your body and mind are engaged in effort. This is balance of effort and relaxation. Eventually the effort feels effortless, even though there is still effort. By breathing slower through your efforts...you are sending a subconscious message to your body... *become more efficient with the energy I am supplying you, it's enough* If you can manage to keep your breath slow and even through practice...you're body will become more capable with less breathing. Also...you will be better at remaining calm through stressful situations in typical life experiences.
What kind of breathing is relaxing?
The nerves which control the relaxation response of your body mostly branch from the Vagus nerve. This is a nerve which passes through the center of your body(not your spine)...kundalini anyone?... and connects to almost every main organ and your brain. Deep, slow breaths into your belly, allowing it both to descend and move forward create sensation around this nerve. Where awareness goes, energy goes. Just by creating sensation around this nerve, causes it's response. Inhale long and deep into the belly, and either, just let the exhale happen by itself(effortless)...or gently follow through as a steady stream of air slowly and softly drawing the abdomen in again. This breathing and nerve response also turns on our immune system and actually all of our body systems will "hear" each other, and work better together too. Union of the body...
The more prevalent trend now in Hatha Yoga is thoracic breathing...or specifically breathing into the ribcage while engaging pelvic floor and abdominal lifting actions. This kind of breathing is empowering...It can help us to summon strength, energy, focus and is necessary for challenging poses to maintain stability for the spine or integrity of the pose. But... it can also be overdone, by sometimes allowing us to get into a pose that we still can't do in a relaxed way. Many people learning this type of breathing make it a constant practice, outside their practice on the mat. This can be something like the equivalent of putting too many volts through your electrical wires...or leaving your car running for hours because you might decide to go out at any time, who knows!. Always trying to be ready...is not very relaxing, ...or very present if you are always ready for nothing! Challenge is healthy...but we shouldn't have to be ready to challenge ourselves all the time with our practice. How then could we ever truly go deep into the kind of relaxation that leads to experiences beyond the realm of the body and superficial aspects of mind.
*If a yoga pose causes you to feel stressed or your exhale becomes very fast and "dumps", these yoga pose are most likely too strenuous for you or you are over exceeding your range and capacity. Stretch less, work less, breath less, ...relax more.
*Start your Hatha Yoga practice by doing abdominal breathing to discover today how relaxed you can be in yourself. Then make it your intention to keep that sense of relaxation through practice.
*For meditation, conscious abdominal breathing will help you settle your body and mind and be very conducive to heart based meditations, or looking to see the truth in your human experience. There are also cosmic based meditations in which we seek to raise the human experience to the divine truth. In these meditations we would maintain abdominal lift and focus in the head third eye or pineal gland center, crown chakra, or other visions of light. This is more advanced and should come after relaxation and heart based meditation techniques for better results.
*Every type of breathing is useful in the right situation.
*Hatha Yoga practice is about exploring balance...create many different experiences through your practice. If we make so much effort to explore the range of motion of our skeletal-muscular system...why not also all the range of motion of our breathing system?
Love and Oms!
George is the founder of Sajeeva Yoga School, and a practitioner and teacher on the journey of exploring life, truth, purpose, and
Yoga technique, Yoga in Asia, Yoga Workshops, Teaching Methods, Asana Alignment, Yoga Tips, Breathing, awareness, mindfulness, spiritual journey, yoga lifestyle,