One of the most important aspects of yoga and pranayama is first knowing how to breathe. There is a three-step process of yoga breathing that involves the abdomen, the diaphragm, and upper chest.
With yoga breathing you can train yourself to breathe more slowly and more deeply. You can reduce your breathing rate from about 15 breaths a minute to 5-6, that is about one third of the breathing rate. Among other things, it leads to lowering of blood pressure, relaxing body tensions and quieting our nerves. It helps slow down the heart rate as more oxygen can be pumped even with less number of breaths. Deep breathing is like a deep massage on our internal organs, resulting in better digestion. And as we grow older, it helps reactivate a sluggish diaphragm, leading to better circulation. Uric acid in the blood is reduced, helping to alleviate joint pains. We can all benefit from the great feeling of inner calm and peace, that deep breathing brings, helping reduce negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear, sadness, and depression.
Paramahansa Yogananda in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, speaks about the benefits of deep breathing. In the chapter The Science of Kriya Yoga, he says, “Many illustrations could be given of the mathematical relationship between man's respiratory rate and the variations in his states of consciousness. A person whose attention is wholly engrossed, as in following some closely knit intellectual argument, or in attempting some delicate or difficult physical feat, automatically breathes very slowly. Fixity of attention depends on slow breathing; quick or uneven breaths are an inevitable accompaniment of harmful emotional states: fear, lust, anger. The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man's average of 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man's. The tortoise, for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years, breathes only 4 times per minute.”
One of my favorite sites that explains deep breathing really well is Three Step Yogic Breathing Exercises. Here is the link below:
If you would like to learn the three-phase yoga breath in person, I would be more than happy to show you. Also I would like to offer my massage services as often I find my clients, when attempting to do the three-phase breath, are having trouble due to a tightness in the sternum, chest or other area. By releasing the knots of tension in these areas, it is almost magical how deep the breath can become. I would enjoy hearing from you. You can contact me any time regarding your questions or to schedule time for massage or practicing the breathing technique together.
As I always say to myself, we only have so many breaths; we might as well make each one count.