Similar to meditation, pranayama (that’s yoga talk for “the science of breath”) can easily be mistaken as complicated because it seems easy on paper but can get quite challenging once you start losing focus. The truth is quite the opposite: breathing is as easy as we allow it to be and as dynamic we choose.
Keep it simple at first! Many find that the simple act of following each inhale and exhale works extremely well as a mindfulness practice. Follow these easy steps and deeply connect with your Full Yogic Breath.
Find a comfortable seat and build a tall Spine.
This one’s easy! Your FeetUp® Trainer is literally a comfortable seat. Congratulations on finding one that allows you to keep your hips, knees, and hamstrings happy while giving you space to make adjustments whenever necessary.
When it comes to finding a tall spine, don’t worry about what it looks like on the outside. Bring awareness to how it feels internally. Float your head above your shoulders above your hips. Avoid hunching as much as possible by keeping your collarbones open and chin parallel with the floor. It may help to do a few gentle twists or forward folds to warm up the body and wake up the mind.
Close your eyes and cradle your navel.
You don’t need them to look inside, intrepid yogi. Not only does this allow you to focus more on your breath, it should help cut down on whatever visual distractions that will inevitably pop up. Gently place your hands on your stomach with the fingers interlaced so yourfingertips come to the second knuckle of the opposite hand. Your navel should feel cradled.
Easy come, easy go. Breathe deep into your belly
It’s as simple as that! Begin by breathing deeply into your hands through your navel. Once this becomes regular after a few cycles, try filling up the belly so deeply that your fingers begin to move– sliding apart on the inhale and back together on the exhale.
Explore the expanse of your inhalation by observing how much your fingers move. Try to match it with each exhalation. Your fingertips may slide back closer farther than they started, which means the exhale could be deeper than the in-breath. There is no right or wrong here, just feedback to observe. Work on controlling the breath: smooth in, smooth out. Notice any places your rush or lack control, and gently work towards balancing it out.
Part I: Repeat the Belly Breath 20 times.
Slowly guide your cradled hands upward towards the ribcage, resting the middle three fingers just below heart center. Continue breathing slowly and deep, allowing each breath to fill the belly before expanding your ribs below your hands. Focus on how your breath fills your body from the bottom up. First into the belly, then up to the ribs. Let the ribs outward in all directions– forward, sideways, and into your back body.
Inhale Long, Exhale Deep.
Let each out breath retrace the steps of your inhale. Exhale from the ribs through the belly, with your navel gently drawing at the bottom to internally support full exhalation. If mindful breathing is a new practice for you, there will inevitably be times where you may battle with awkward feelings or a lack of control. Be strong in your commitment to expanding the breath and avoid unnecessary force in either direction.
Part II: Repeat this Ribcage Breath 20 Times.
In through the belly towards the ribs for the inhale, out from the ribs through the belly on the exhale. Slow, gentle, easy, deep. If your mind starts to wander, give your brain something to do: focus intently on the size of each slow breath coming in and going out and see if you can pinpoint where any sharp edges or inconsistencies may be hiding.
Separate your hands and raise the palms to rest on your upper chest, softly hanging the fingertips on the collar bones. From here, you can continue to expand the breath upward from the navel throughout your entire torso. From the belly through the ribs into the collarbones. Follow the inhale rising along your spinal column as it expands your insides outward in all directions. Allow the exhale to mindfully releasing in the reverse of the expansion: From the collarbones, through the ribs, and out of the navel as it gently draws up and in.
Part III: Repeat this Full Yogic Breath 20 Times
Once you’ve found and maintained this full yogic breath for as long as you’d like, slowly allow the breath to normalize. Take notice of the smoothness of this natural breath, the broadness of your chest may feel, and how tall your spine may feel. Cruise here as you float between your inhale and exhale with your eyes closed and your mind focused on whatever is coming up. Enjoy the ride! You’ll know when to stop.
It’s easy to take breath for granted.
We often don’t think about our breath until we need it most. Whether you’ve never practiced pranayama before or you’ve just fallen out of touch with your practice, the Full Yogic Breath is a great way to reconnect with respiration. Mastering a skillful connection with each breath is lifelong adventure. Why not spend a little time every day strengthening one of the most vital processes that ? After all, the rest of your life begins with every inhale.
Instead of counting every breath, make every breath count.