Your Free Yoga Lesson

This Month's Lesson: The Complete Breath

Benefits of the Complete Breath:

Improve focus and concentration
Reduce anxiety
Help manage stress and upset
Sleep more soundly
Build stamina

Cautions: If you experience any dizziness while doing this exercise, stop and relax, breathing normally. With practice, you will be able to do the Complete breath for longer periods of time.

Learn the Complete Breath seated on the edge of a chair with feet flat. You may switch to a seated position on the floor later, but be sure to use one or two firm cushions to raise your hips and prevent tension or slouching in your lower back. Always breathe through your nose, and concentrate on the sound of the breath — a sort of steamlike sound that is similar to making an "h" sound with your mouth closed. When you concentrate on the sound, you won’t be able to think about other things, which makes the technique much more effective and contributes greatly to the stress-coping effect. It gives your mind a rest.

Place your hands on your belly and breathe out, trying not to slouch forward. Tighten your belly muscles to get as much air out as possible. Now begin to breathe in from the bottom up, letting your belly muscles relax so the air appears to fill your belly. (What you are actually feeling as your belly relaxes is your diaphragm expanding fully, allowing oxygen into the entire lower section of your lungs.) Continue to breathe in and feel the air filling the center part of your torso. Imagine the muscles between your ribs stretching so that your ribs expand in all directions, not just forward. Breathe in a little more and feel the air filling the very top sections of your lungs.

Do not hold your breath, but gently start to breathe out, slowly, from the top down. First relax your chest, then let your ribs contract, and finally tighten your belly and push the last of the air out. Do not hold your breath at the bottom of the cycle either. Depending on your current breath capacity, the complete cycle of the Complete Breath (one inhalation, one exhalation) may take ten to thirty seconds. It is important to breathe in and out for approximately the same length of time. Most of us naturally breathe out longer than we breathe in. In the Complete Breath you are counteracting that tendency and breathing more evenly.

Start with 5 to 10 repetitions of the Complete Breath once a day (about 2-4 minutes of practice) and work up to five or ten minutes of concentrated breath practice. You can also practice the Complete Breath at other times of day, such as while waiting in line, in your car at stop lights or if you are a passenger (please do not practice while actively driving!), before going to sleep at night, or while watching television.

For more instruction on breathing techniques, or any other Yoga techniques, see any of our Yoga products.

Enjoy this technique, and visit next month for something new!

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