Yoga helps us breathe with our whole body allowing for air exchange in the parts of the body not usually reached in a regular breath. You might have heard the term, “Yoga increases Prana (life force)”. My understanding of how this happens is that yoga asanas stimulate more muscles to get involved in the process of respiration. Our body’s breath is three dimensional. Ribs move out in the front, the sides and the back with each inhalation. The ribs are moved by the intercostal muscles. The Diaphragm moves down with inhalation and up with every exhalation. Several muscles have to move to get air to all the cells in our body. From our long habits, we end up making our breaths shallow by using only a few muscles.
I am saying this with my own experience. In a yoga class, the teacher asked us to lie on our tummy in crocodile pose. I was finding it hard to breathe as I have the habit of breathing using mainly the muscles in the front of the body. She made us do lateral bends, backbends and got us back to lie in crocodile pose. This time, I found that I could breathe more easily now that my back muscles are warmed up. This observation was the inspiration for this blog.
By doing the forward folds, lateral bends, inversions, backbends and other poses in yoga class; one can awaken different muscles groups in their body so that those muscles actively work with the breath. This has several intuitive benefits: breath is deeper having a calming effect, oxygen reaches energizing more areas of the body thereby having a rejuvenating effect. Taking your attention to various body parts while in poses helps this process. That’s why your yoga teacher may ask you to take your attention to a body part as the breath follows the mind.
So, practice yoga regularly to breathe with your whole body!