No matter which breathing technique you undertake, follow these basic breathing guidelines:
- Breathe through your nose unless we tell you to breathe through your mouth. Breathing this way encourages you to breathe correctly and slowly because you can't force as much air through your nostrils as you can your mouth. Nostril breathing slows the process down. It also helps to filter and warm the air as it enters your body.
- Listen to yourself breathe. Does your breathing have a smooth and easy rhythm? Breathing is akin to the sound and rhythm of ocean waves — it's a natural act that changes pace with your moods and health. The breath is the link between the mind and the body. By listening to your breathing, you begin to control your breathing, and, in turn, you notice that you can gently shift your mood or disposition in subtle ways. Working gently with the sound and the sensations of your breath, you can subtly control how your body feels.
- Breathe rhythmically. If your breath stops or sounds rough, short, or shallow, it's a sign that you may be pushing too hard as you exercise. Forcing your breath suggests that you have come to the edge and gone
- in a bit too far. If your breath feels forced, take two or three Complete Breaths to get your rhythm and control back.
- Concentrate on making a smooth transition between each inhalation and exhalation — focus on the point of stillness where one becomes the other. Don't hold your breath at the top of an inhalation; ride it a bit over the top and then smoothly turn it into an exhalation. At the bottom of an exhalation, ride it out just a bit as well, and then smoothly transition into a natural inhalation.
- Never force your breath beyond the natural capacity of your lungs. Full, rhythmic, gentle breathing without strain is the goal of yoga breathing.
- Don't practice yoga breathing in uncomfortable places where the air is too cold or too hot. Like Goldilocks' porridge, the air should be "just right." Find a place that feels comfortable to you.
- Straighten your posture. If you slouch, let your belly hang out, round your shoulders, or stand without distributing and balancing the weight of your body properly, you can't possibly breathe well. If your posture is poor, you're crowding or collapsing your lungs and diminishing their capacity to take in oxygen. Lucky for you, the yoga-with-weights exercises in this book can improve your posture, and the combination of the exercises and the breathing techniques can significantly increase the amount of nourishing oxygen you take into your body.