Aligning Your Movements With Your Breathing

Aligning Your Movements with Your Breathing Enhances Your Yoga Practice

Are you getting the maximum benefit from your yoga sessions? If you haven't yet learned how to synchronize your breathing with your yoga poses, you may not be enjoying all of the advantages yoga offers for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Why Aligning Your Movements is so Important

During your first few yoga classes, you may have wondered why your instructor spent so much time explaining yogic breathing. After all, you've been inhaling and exhaling all of your life. Unlike your natural breathing sequence, yogic breathing fully engages your diaphragm, ribs, and muscles. Breathing deeply reduces stress and anxiety, triggers the release of natural endorphins that improve your mood, and can even improve digestion and sleep.

When your breathing is aligned with your movements, it's easier to move through the various phases of a pose. Inhaling tends to open your body, while exhaling causes it to contract.

Do you often begin to move before remembering to inhale? Inhaling a second or two before you perform the first part of the sun salutation and other poses elevate your movements and enhances fluidity. This practice can also help you deepen and sustain yogic breathing as you move from pose to pose.

Although breathing in during extensions and upward movements and exhaling while bending and moving out of a posture offers a simple rule to follow, aligning breathing and movement isn't always so simple. In fact, you may find yourself breathing too shallowly or speeding through the pose if you can't quite match your inhalation to the exact length of the opening movement. Even worse, you may fail to focus on proper alignment and form if you concentrate primarily on your breathing.

It's important to pay attention to the signals your body sends you as you perform poses. If you struggle to synch your breathing and movements after several repetitions, your body may be telling you that it's time to move on to the next pose.

With practice, you will eventually be able to keep your movements and breathing perfectly aligned. Until you master this skill, it's perfectly acceptable to breathe at a rate that's comfortable for you.

A Few Things to Remember while Breathing

Keep these suggestions in mind when integrating movement and breathing:

  • Picture it - Imagine yourself inhaling as you begin the pose and exhaling as you finish it. Creating a mental image can help you perfect your technique and improve your confidence.
  • Elongate Your Back Muscles - Inhaling is much easier when your spine is fully extended. If your spine is rounded, it will be harder to take a deep breath.
  • Talk to Your Instructor - It's not always easy to keep your breathing and movements aligned, particularly when performing more complex poses. Let your instructor know if you're having difficulty. He or she can offer a few suggestions that may make the process easier.
    When you successfully combine breathing with movement, you just may be surprised at how much more effortless yoga becomes. If you're ready to sign up for your next class or want to try yoga for the first time, be sure to give us a call.


Yoga Journal: Awaken Your Yoga Practice with Breathing Awareness, 4/15/17

Mindbodygreen: Mastering the Full Yogic Breathing

Harvard Health Publishing: Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response

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