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Breath is LIFE: an Introduction to Yoga Breathing Exercises

Yoga Breathing Exercises, otherwise known as pranayama yoga, is the science and mastery of the breath.

From a western perspective, studies indicate that lung function is an indicator of general health and is the primary measure of potential life span.

In yoga, mastery of yoga breathing exercises is the foundation for:

  • Promoting health and vitality
  • Opening the range and creativity of the emotions
  • Controlling the moods
  • Developing concentration
  • Promoting a feeling of connectedness

The root of pranayama yoga is the word 'prana', which means life force and the suffix 'yama' refers to expansion.

Therefore, the more life force energy we take in through deep and focused breath awareness, the more we can expand our own life and our own capacity to create a life of joy and fulfillment.

There are many different yoga breathing exercises known as pranayama techniques which use different rhythms and depths of breath to effectively balance the body in terms of health, consciousness and emotion.

What is an ideal breath?

According to ancient yogic science, we are all given 'x' number of breaths in our lifetime. If we use them up by being in a stressed, shallow breathing state, that's it. We don't get any more.

One aspect of yoga breathing exercises then is to help us slow down our breathing rate so that we don't use up all our breaths too early, and therefore we get to extend our life span.

An ideal breath, according to yoga is to breath with a rate of 1 cycle per minute. This is known as the One-Minute-Breath.

The One-Minute Yogic Breath:

The One-Minute Breath cycle refers to the completion of a full breath including 'inhale-hold-exhale'.

Research indicates that men normally breathe at a rate of 16-18 cycles per minute and women breath an average of 18-20 cycles per minute. Essentially, we are all in a cycle of shallow breathing, and very few of us understand how to shift to a more relaxed breathing state.

What does that really mean? Well, if you were breathing at a rate of 20 cycles per minute, here is what it would look like:

  • 1 second to inhale
  • 1 second to hold (we naturally pause between the inhale and exhale)
  • 1 second to exhale

So if this is the average, how the heck do we get to a one-minute cycle? Well, with everything, it is about practice of course.

The one minute cycle would actually look like this:

  • 20 seconds to inhale
  • 20 seconds to hold
  • 20 seconds to exhale

I'd like you to actually take a moment and try this one-minute yoga breathing exercise right now and see how tough it really is compared to your typical breath rate.

How did you do?

Did you feel like you were suffocating? Gasping? Like your lungs were on fire?

That is all normal, for your first time. Although I am way better at this after having practiced for a few years, it is still tough at times, depending on how stressful my day was, how anxious I feel, etc.

8 Cycles per minute:

If you can even get down to a place of 8 cycles per minute, you will find yourself feeling more relaxed, an increase in mental awareness and a heightened healing response in your body.

This is definitely something to strive for and it does not take long to practice. Just work on it as you stand at the kitchen sink doing the dishes, or while you are sorting the laundry.

With just 3 minutes practice of your yoga breathing exercises each day, you will notice that within a few months, your breathing rate will be dramatically lower and you will be:

Adding years to your life and life to your years.

Yours In Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

For more information on other yoga breathing exercises, please review the following pages:

Pranayama Benefits: Understand the vast benefits of these ancient breathing techniques. If you are looking for ONE thing to include into your daily stress routine, it would be breath work, hands down. Read more...

Pranayama Techniques: Learn about teh ancient pranayama techniques to keep your mind in tip-top shape!

Deep Breathing Exercises: Understand the simple art of deep breathing and why it is important for YOU.

Relaxed Breathing: Are you breathing backwards? Find out if you are breathing in the right sequence to stimulate your body rhythms to move into a relaxed state.

Shallow Breathing: If you are even remotely stressed, anxious or feeling emotional, chances are your breath is shallow. Start here and take control of your life once again.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Learn about the anatomy involved in deep breathing...you will be surprised at what is involved in fully expanding your lungs.

Abdominal Breathing: Challenged physically? You can still get a great aerobic work-out simply by abdominal breathing. Learn how...

Breathing Retraining: Re-learning how to breath is similar to re-learning the art of positive thinking. It is about constant repetition. It is really about reprogramming your mind.

Breath of Fire: An ancient technique for cleansing and strengthening your personal power. A must know for all intermediate and advanced yogis.

Cleansing Breath: Learn how breath can be cleansing and a simple tool to use when you feel a cold coming on.

Sitali: Chill out and Relax with Sitali Pranayam. Remarkably like hanging out in the cool ocean breeze!

Alternate Nostril Breathing: A fundamental pranayama technique to balance and harmonize your body and body chemistry.

Rhythmic Breathing: What happens when you vary the rhythms and ratios of the breath? Learn how to heal simply by varying your breath rate and rhythm.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety: For simple breathing exercises for anxiety, try left nostril breathing and segmented exhales.

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