By Faye Martins
Yoga breathing (pranayama) is a valuable part of a meditation practice. Yogic methodology is the union of asanas, pranayama, and meditation. Each part is present in every style of yoga a practitioner chooses to follow, and the parts work together to provide the practitioner with the optimum benefits of a yoga training session. Pranayama are breathing exercises designed to help the practitioner open up his body and mind to good physical and mental health and to prepare for the practice of meditation.
There are many yoga breathing techniques that are part of pranayama and each serves a different purpose in the overall practice of yoga. While all breathing helps to bring in clean oxygen, expanding the lungs, and to eliminate the toxins in the body as it expels carbon dioxide, pranayama is designed to bring balance between the two. Most beginners do not know how to breathe properly because most people are used to breathing shallowly as a result of hectic life. Part of learning about yoga practice is learning about correct breathing. In particular, breathing is central to achieve the peaceful, in-the-moment state of meditation.
Long deep breathing is the best technique for meditation. This technique encourages deep relaxation as the flow of oxygen in the body increases and the capacity of the lungs is used to full extent. The ability to focus and concentrate also increases during long deep breathing. An additional benefit of long deep yoga breathing, that makes it ideal for meditation, is that it allows the practitioner to gain control over emotions of fear, insecurity and dependability, freeing and opening the mind for the positive affirmations that accompany the practice of meditation.
Long deep yoga breathing can be done in the seated positions preferred for meditation, and as the oxygen flows into the lungs and energizes the body, the body moves into deep relaxation and the mind opens up and expands, allowing the practitioner to be fully in the moment. The meditation mantras and affirmations work in tandem with long deep breathing, timing the words with each inhalation and exhalation.
Long deep yoga breathing also helps the practitioner become aware of the flow of energy within. The lungs fill with fresh oxygen, causing pressure in the lungs, which then disperse energy to the whole body, including the nerve endings and force the chest and stomach to expand, pushing the shoulders back. Once the practitioner exhales and releases the breath, tension is also expelled from the body, reaching a relaxed state for meditation.
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