Updated: Feb 29, 2020
There's a lot more to yoga than just the poses, and if you've been attending classes for a few weeks, you're likely to have noticed that there's a big emphasis on bringing your awareness to your breath.
We say that yoga is the union of mind, body and breath. By bringing our awareness to our breath, we're better able to get the mind and body working as one and focus on the present moment.
Our breathwork not only helps us to concentrate on the here and now, but it's also a good guage for our physical practice – if your breathing becomes laboured, it could be a sign that you're pushing your body a little bit too far in poses and need to back off.
One of the first breathing exercises that you may try in your class is abdominal breathing. These deep belly breaths encourage us to use our lungs to their full capacity, where we might not do so throughout the day.
Establishing abdominal breathing is a lovely way to start your practice and settle your mind. Here's how to do it at home:
First of all, safely come down to the floor
1. Sit up nice and tall, legs stretched out long in front of you
2. Bring your hands up level with your shoulders.
3. Point your toes and tuck your chin in towards your chest.
4. Using your tummy muscles, lower yourself down one vertebrae at a time until you're lying flat on your mat.
5. Once on the floor, get comfy and relax your body down into the mat.
Begin to breathe
1. Keeping your elbows grounded into the mat, bring your hands onto your belly, just beneath your navel.
2. Imagine there's a ballon in your belly - send your breath down to this balloon as you inhale.
3. As you inhale, the balloon inflates and your belly button rises.
4. As you exhale, the balloon deflates and your belly button draws back towards your spine.
5. Repeat this several times until you get used to the technique. This is your abdominal breath.
Once you get used to the feeling of breathing into your belly, try inhaling for a count of three, holding for one and exhaling for four. This is a calming breath and will help to relax your body. It can be a lovely thing to do in bed at the end of the day when you're settling down to sleep.
Top tip: once you've mastered this lying down, do the same in a sitting position, making sure you sit up tall to keep your spine nice and long.