You think you know how to breathe? Wrong. Let Yoga teach you correct breathing

By: Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

Who would have thought with the progress of science and technology, human beings would lose the basic tech-how of life – the skill of breathing?

Yes, breathing: the simple body process where air moves in and out of lungs.

It may look like a simple, unconscious body process, but breathing is vital to human survival, physical health, mental peace and speech. The ancient Indian rishis who gave the world the philosophy of Yoga knew the importance of breathing. They have called breath to be the vital energy. It is through the control of breath that we meditate, connect with the inner self and achieve what the Indian Yoga masters – the yogis and yoginis – describe as Supreme Consciousness, the knowledge of Self.

To understand the importance of breath, consider these four questions:

Q1: How long can you go without food? Take a guess.

A1: Let’s say 10 days. There have been instances where people have survived without food for up to 40 days (hardcore yogi/yoginis can go much longer, even years)

Q2: How long can you go without water? Take another guess.

A2: Let’s say 6 days. Depending on a person’s health, body weight and circumstances, this figure can vary as well.

Q3: And how long can you survive without breathing?

A3: Let’s not answer this, take a guess or even think about trying it. We all know the answer. Only after a few minutes, irreversible brain damage can occur.

Q4: My last question is: out of food, water and breathing, what do we pay the most attention to?

A4: Food.

So my dear readers, when we should be paying the most attention to our breathing, we spend most of our day planning for just food. So dedicate at least a few minutes of your day in correcting your breathing, so you breathe correctly at the sub-conscious level as well – just like a newborn.

A newborn? Yes, a newborn. Have you ever observed a sleeping newborn? Just watch his or her tummy gently rise and fall. That little fellow sure knows how to breathe correctly – like a true yogi or yogini.

We all are born with the gift of correct breathing technique but we lose it as we grow older and start associating with the world around us. But the good news is, we all can consciously correct it. Here’s how to breathe correctly like a yogi/yogini.

Find out if you breathe correctly:

  1. Sit on a chair/stool, preferably cross-legged on floor. If you have to do this standing up, that’s fine too.
  2. Close your eyes and keep them closed throughout the process. But close your eyes after reading rest of the instructions. 🙂
  3. Gently place your hands – one over the other – over your abdomen.
  4. Now take a few deep breaths. Gently inhale and exhale. Keep your mouth closed.
  5. Find your breath – your breathing should be deep but gentle and through the nose.
  6. Now observe your inhalation – does your abdomen go in or come out? If you can’t feel it, press your abdomen a little harder with your hands.
  7. If with every inhalation, your abdomen is going inwards (falling in) you are breathing incorrectly.
  8. The correct way to breathe is: with every inhalation, your abdomen should come out (rise) and with every exhalation, it should go in (fall).

How to correct your breathing:

  1. Don’t be disheartened if you just found out you breathe incorrectly.
  2. With conscious effort, you can correct your breathing in just 10 days.
  3. Imagine your abdomen is a balloon. To inflate a balloon, you have to blow in air; similarly to inflate your abdominal balloon, you have to blow the air into your body. In breathing words: every time you breathe in, your abdomen should come out (rise) and with every exhalation, your abdomen should go in (fall).
  4. If you can’t figure it out, lie down on a flat surface and place 2-3 books (not too heavy) on your abdomen. Now observe if your abdomen rises with every inhalation.
  5. With every breath of your waking moment, consciously breathe in air and inflate your abdominal balloon. Never use your mouth to breathe.
  6. Don’t think you CAN’T do it. You CAN! Just put your mind to it and breathe by the balloon analogy.

I know it can be challenging once you consciously start doing it. My students initially find the process frustrating as well. The biggest excuse I get is: “I don’t find the time to consciously try it.”

My answer to them is a list of time frames when they can consciously focus on correct breathing. Here is my list:

  1. Focus on your breath in the 20 steps from my Yoga space to your car parked on the driveway outside.
  2. The next time you walk from your desk to the washroom – keep a hand on your abdomen and try and breathe correctly.
  3. The few minutes you ride in the elevator or on the escalator, ditch the smartphone and find your breath.
  4. If you take public transit, you’ve hit a goldmine of time to correct your breathing.
  5. When you get off the public transit, make use of the short walk to your office/school/place of work and focus on your breathing. Please be conscious of the traffic and the signals around you. 🙂
  6. Make use of the time you are cooking.
  7. After a couple of days, you don’t need to place hands over your abdomen. Just find your breath and observe if your abdomen rises with inhalation and falls with exhalation.
  8. When you are aware of your breath, all the time, you will correct it eventually.

I will discuss more on correct, deep breathing and its benefits in the next posts. Please leave a comment below and feel free to ask me any question on correct breathing or other aspects of Yoga. Enjoy deep, peaceful breathing!

Full disclaimer: Please understand Yoga is not a substitute for medical attention, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult a physician prior to beginning any activity program, including yoga.
Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, SandhuBhamra.com blog’s author and/or owner are not liable for any injury, physical or otherwise through any teachings given under the category Yoga through this blog site. Yoga should be started and practiced with a certified Yoga teacher or an established Yoga guru/master. Always listen to your body when attempting a Yoga pose; respect the limits of your body and mind.

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Categories: Yoga

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8 replies

  1. Something so simple and something a lot of us don’t pay much attention to, at all… I followed the instructions while reading the article and felt my abdomen sinking in and buldging out.. Thank you for this important reminder 🙂

  2. Nice Post. Just shared part of the post on my blog here http://yoga-raj.blogspot.ca/2014/03/yoga-breathing-correct-way.html with link to your blog post. If you mind it, please leave a comment on my blog and I will delete it.

  3. Very true and very nicely written luckily I am practicing it since last few days and achieved very good results

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