In most yoga classes you will be introduced to basic breathing practices. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness can be a very useful tool in helping to restore the balance in the mind and body. Our breathing can be influenced by our thoughts and vice versa our thoughts can be influenced by our breath.
Very basic techniques such as listening to your own natural rhythm of breath then tuning into this by starting to deepen the breath is a great start. In yoga we practise during class breathing in and out through the nostrils. There are many reasons and benefits for doing this and it really slows down the intake of breath. You can then develop this by extending the inhale and exhale and being aware of that natural pause between each. As the mind, body and breath are connected, then if we can start to slow the breath down this can have a positive effect on slowing down the body and the mind.
By using breathing techniques you don’t just have to use these in class, you can start to bring these into your everyday life. If you are feeling anxious or feeling stressed out by something – a good one is when you are waiting in a long queue, and then by practising basic breathing techniques, you may find that they help you to feel calmer in a situation.
There are many benefits of practising breathing techniques which may include: helping to lower the stress response in the body, reducing anxiety and depression, lowering/stabilising blood pressure, increasing energy levels, enhancing deep relaxation, muscle relaxation, strengthening the lungs and improving breathing… and many many more.
In a BWY class you will practice breathing techniques to develop awareness and full use of the breath. These techniques can be developed into pranayama (breathing) exercises. There are many various pranayama techniques, but it is advisable to learn these from a teacher as some exercises are not suitable for everyone and if you have respiratory or circulatory conditions then speak to a teacher first.
For further information about breathing and pranayama exercises you could look at the Donna Farhi book that looks at the breath, the anatomy of breathing and exercises.
In the B.K.S Iyengar Light On Yoga book, there is a section on pranayama.