Sun, April 17, 2005


Ask the Yoga Instructor

Will the practice of Yoga teach me correct Breathing?

“It’s all in the breath, experience your breath, feel it” is what my yoga teacher used to say while I was a student of yoga in the late 60’s at Miami Dade Community College. It took me a long time to understand what she meant. I had joined this class because of some coaxing by a friend who suggested Yoga might help me with my Fibrositis (now called Fibromyalgia) I was not interested in learning how to breathe. I knew how to breathe, so I thought. However, I was quite wrong. I learned that I was doing very shallow chest breathing. Most of us breathe too quickly and too shallow. Shallow breathing reduces our vitality. We need oxygen for the production of energy in the body. Oxygen is essential for healthy cells. Our emotions influence the way we breathe. When we are excited or upset our heart beat increases and our breathing takes on a staccato-like rhythm. Deep controlled breathing is a natural tranquilizer and helps us regenerate and rejuvenate. When we provide sufficient oxygen to our body it helps us to ward off tiredness and sluggishness. Through deep breathing we supply oxygen into our bloodstream, into the muscles our joints, organs and every cell.

Should I breathe through my mouth or nose?

The majority of breathing exercises in yoga are done through the nose with the mouth closed. Our nose has a screen of hairs, which trap dust and bacteria and warms the air before it reaches the lungs, rather than allowing cold air to enter into the lungs by mouth breathing. Our lungs gain strength when we exhale through the nostrils, since it takes the lungs longer to deflate. If you are a mouth breather try to break the habit by practicing nose breathing.

What are the benefits of Abdominal Breathing?

Slow relaxed Abdominal Breathing calms our emotions, relaxes the muscles, stretches the lower lobes of the lungs and helps to induce a more restful sleep. This is how it’s done: as you inhale, expand the abdomen (blowing it out like a balloon), as you exhale, contract the abdomen (pull it back toward the spine). So let’s give it a try.

Lie on your back and have you legs bent, having your feet close to your buttocks. Close your eyes and place your right hand lightly over your belly button. Slowly and gently inhale to the count of 4 expanding your abdomen, breathe into your right hand while keeping the chest still. Now exhale slowly to a count of 6 gently pulling the abdomen in and drawing it back to the spine, making sure you are expelling every bit of air. Remember to breathe through the nose. Repeat this several more times, keeping your chest still. Notice how calm and relaxed your feel. It’s important to do this breathing exercise very slowly and with awareness.

Ilse Mindling is a Yoga Alliance registered and certified instructor, instructing in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. She may be reached at (941) 204-0095 visit:

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