Take the Whole of the Movement for the Whole of the Breath: Yoga Practices to Strengthen Your Breathing

Yoga has a wealth of practices that can be very beneficial and help strengthen our respiratory muscles. There is always some residual air in the lungs but it’s good to exchange as much of it as possible and these practices can help you do that.

You can control or be aware of the speed, depth and length of the breath which works the breathing muscles, as well as the amount of air you take in and give out. In asana you can match the timing of the breath to the timing of the movement and vice versa. I often say “take the whole of the movement for the whole of the breath and the whole of the breath for the whole of the movement”. If you finish the movement before you finish the breath, relax your body and let go with your awareness on your breath until you have reached the natural pause at the end of the breath. Do not stop the breath because you have finished the movement.

Applying Deeper Breathing in Movement: Taking the Whole of the Movement to the Whole of the Breath and Vice Versa:

Lying on the floor in shavasana (see image) do a body awareness scan then with awareness on your breathing take several relaxing breaths, creating a letting go feeling, as you breathe out.

  1. When settled and relaxed bring your legs together and arms by your side.
  2. On your next in-breath take a long, deep slow breath as you slowly and gently take your arms towards the ceiling and continue moving them down to touch the floor in line with your shoulders. Remember to take the whole of the movement to the whole of the breath and the whole of the breath to the whole of the movement.
  3. As you move keep your awareness on the breath as it creates increased expansion in your chest, back, sides, abdomen and body. Use as much of your lung capacity as is comfortable and without excessive tension.
  4. As you slowly breathe out bring your arms gently and slowly back to your starting position. Keep your awareness on the breath and the retraction in the torso and body.
  5. Keeping awareness on your breathing take a few gentle, letting go, relaxing breaths before each movement repeating several times.

Lying Down Tree:

  1. Lay down and relax in shavasana with awareness on your breathing. Not changing it but just watching it slow and settle.
  2. on an in-breath, bend one leg and place the foot on the floor by the side of your other thigh and above knee height.
  3. On your next out-breath, keeping the leg bent, let it slowly move down to the floor with its sole touching the side of the other inner thigh.
  4. As you take a long, slow, deep, comfortable breath-in take your arms and hands overhead to the floor with palms coming together to touch as in namaste.
  5. As you slowly and steadily breathe out bend your elbows and with your palms still together, bring them down to just above the centre of your head. Keep the elbows towards the floor. (Remember not to stop the breath and to complete it as you gently relax into asana).
  6. Rest a while in this position and follow your breath as it moves into, through and out of your body.
  7. On a deep, slow comfortable in-breath straighten your arms back along the floor and release the palms.
  8. With a long, slow, steady out-breath take your arms slowly towards the ceiling and gently back to the floor by the sides of your body.
  9. When ready on an in-breath bring your knee up to point at the ceiling with your foot flat on the floor.
  10. On the next out-breath slide the foot and leg down to your starting position.
  11. In shavasana spend some time resting with your awareness on your breathing, letting go on the out-breaths and relaxing. ENJOY.

Alternative: for points 9 and 10 above you may prefer to take your leg back to the start by sliding it along the floor without raising the knee.

Repeat on the other side.

June Skeggs, YHET Member

We hope you enjoyed these practices and we invite you to explore further practices in the extended article available to members under INSIGHTS in the DOWNLOADS section. Not a member? Click here to join us.

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