Breathing exercises are an easy and effective way to find peace and promote relaxation. In yoga, the Sanskrit name for breathing practices is pranayama, which translates to "extension of life force." Since the breath is what keeps us alive, when we engage in practices that cultivate the breath, we are expanding that force into our entire being. No wonder it only takes a few deep breaths to help us feel more calm and centered!
One of my favorite techniques is called Three-Part Breath. It can be done in a seated position, or laying down. Follow along and see how much better you feel when you're done!
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position. Or, you can choose to practice the three-part breath laying on your back. In this example, I'll show you how to do it seated, but always listen to what works best for you.
Side note: Three-part breathing is so relaxing that even my four-legged friend Lama here wanted to practice! :)
Step 2: Belly breaths. Place your right hand on your stomach. As you inhale, count to 3 and feel your entire belly expand. As you exhale count backwards from 3 and feel your tummy deflate. Try this a few times, imagining your abdomen like a balloon, filling up with each in-breath and emptying with each out-breath.
Step 3: Feel your ribcage expand. Place your right hand on your right ribs, and your left hand on your left ribs. As you breathe in for 6 counts, feel your belly expand first for three counts, and then bring your breath into your ribcage for the last three. On the exhale count down from 6, release the breath first from your ribcage, and then from your belly. With your hands on your ribs, imagine your ribcage growing outward and expanding with the inhale; each breath out, feel the ribs move back towards the center of your body. Notice how good it feels to create space here! We often hold a lot of tension in our side ribs without even knowing. Let yourself open up and soften. Repeat 3-4 times...
Step 4: Send breath to your heart. Now that you've gotten the hang of breathing into your belly and your ribs, next move the breath up to your chest. Try to increase your breath cycles to a count of 9. As you inhale, breathe into your belly (1, 2, 3...), ribs (4, 5, 6...), and chest (7, 8, 9). Then as you exhale, release the breath first from your chest (9, 8, 7...), then your ribs (6, 5, 4...), and finally your belly (3, 2, 1). Imagine your torso like a tall glass cup; each inhale you fill the glass from bottom to top, and each exhale you empty the cup from the top to the bottom. Continue with the three-part breath for 5-10 rounds, and when you are done, return your breath to normal and notice how much more relaxed and present you feel.
May your breath expand life throughout your body, mind, and spirit!
The light in me bows to the light in you...