As you well know, the breath happens whether you’re paying attention or not. It is possible that you don’t realize how your daily life and mental state are hindering your breath?
The next time you try mindful breathing, watch for these factors. If you feel like a respiratory or other condition could be inhibiting your breath, rely on a doctor.
Belly Expansion. People enjoying yoga for the first time often learn they are essentially breathing backward. When you inhale, your belly should expand. It should contract on the exhale. While “backward breathing” - where you contract on the inhale - isn’t inherently bad, it can contribute to your tension.
No Belly Expansion. Speaking of tension, a lot of us who are already pretty tense may not expand and contract our stomachs at all. If your belly remains level while breathing, you’re experiencing tension in your midsection. Fortunately, you can release tension in this area by breathing into it. Remember – breathe so that it fills your belly. Imagine squeezing it all out as you exhale.
Too Much Mouth. It’s natural to breathe through your mouth at times, but be cautious of relying on this passageway. Your nose is the best way to regulate and modify based on air quality and the environment. Oftentimes we rely on mouth breathing because we’re too distracted to realize that our nasal passages aren’t as clear as they could be.
You’re Too Mindful. Breathing in deeply can be really helpful. Maybe it’s to help us refocus, or during pranayama practice. But if we focus on breathing in very deeply a lot, it alters our Co2 concentrations. That’s not necessary for a healthy person to do all of the time; in normal conditions, it can even be detrimental. If you’ve made a habit of gulping air, practice going slower and a little shallower on the inhale. Aim to make that exhale longer and more complete than the inhale.
You THINK You’re Tired. Do you find yourself yawning a lot during the day when you’re not sleepy? Some tense or anxious people aren’t aware they’ve been feeling that way until they are physically “tired out” from it, such as through excessive yawning. If you’re tense and haven’t been breathing properly, you might become slightly starved for oxygen. This leads to increased yawning.
Bracing Yourself. Runners and parents of toddlers alike have this in common. If your daily activity includes plenty of suspense or requires that you constantly watch your physical form, you just might be holding your breath. In some cases, you’re actually holding back emotions. If you’re flinching from life and sacrificing your breath in the process, simply becoming aware of that can make a huge difference.
Poor posture. Posture isn’t just about appearances and manners. When we hunch forward, we’re reducing our ability to breathe well. Think about that the next time you’re hunched over your phone or desk for hours on end – you’re compressing your entire midsection.
Do you have any helpful, healthy breathing tips? Favorite pranayama practices or breathing exercises? Tell us in the comments.