THE FULL YOGIC BREATH
The Full Yogic Breath includes breathing consciously into all three parts of the torso:
Mid Chest or Ribs
This helps in “filling your body with your breath”.
1. Belly: Breathe into your diaphragm first. Expanding your belly and lower ribs. As you breathe out your belly and ribs relax downward and inward. Pay special attention to the expansion of your back ribs – as they expand your tailbone descends and you feel more aligned with your center or core. Breathe from the back to the front of your body, deepening the action of the diaphragm.
2. Mid-Chest or Ribs: Keeping the expansion in your ribs, continue expanding into the mid chest (this requires a bit more effort than the belly breath). You will feel the upper abdomen draw in and up by a kind of suction as your mid chest expands.
3. Top Chest: Drawing your breath in further lifts and expands the top chest. Feel your collar bones roll open (lift and rotate back), your shoulder blades firm into your back, with the lower tips dipping in toward your heart. The space this creates encourages the opening of your heart. “Breathe behind your heart.” Notice that breathing into the upper chest takes the most effort of all while drawing in less volume!
4. As you exhale, begin the release with your diaphragm, as your lower ribs soften inward. Continue by relaxing your mid chest as your ribs release symmetrically with a calm smooth exhale. Let your top chest release without collapsing or rounding your posture forward! Your outer body softens, while you maintain your internal strength and core. Try not to push the breath out, finish your exhalation in a state of calm.
The full yogic breath consists of breathing into all three parts of the torso from bottom to top, with a smooth uninterrupted transition between each part. It is a continuous breath, although you feel each distinct area expand with your in breath and release as you breathe out.
Inhaling and Exhaling from bottom to top????? Many forms of yogic breathing teach us to exhale from top to bottom, which is somewhat true as the air will leave your lungs from top to bottom. Yet in terms of the mechanics of the body, you best exhale from the action of the diaphragm (bottom) to the action of the chest (top). The diaphragm is the prime mover of the breath. If you were to breathe out from chest to belly, at the end of the exhale your belly still remains distended signaling that stale air remains in the lower portion of the lungs because the diaphragm has no room to press upward. The chest would tend to collapse as you work to remove the stale air that remains at the end of the exhale. All too often as we exhale, the chest just collapses.
Why are we placing such importance on a diaphragmatic breath? Diaphragmatic breathing is physiologically the most efficient. A major portion of the blood sent to the lungs remains in the lower portion of the lungs, the blood with the most O2 is in the lower portions of the lungs. The air we inspire only reaches to the lower portions of the lungs when the diaphragm expands and pulls the air down where the most oxygen rich blood is. When we breathe by using the external muscles more so than the diaphragm, the breath is shallow and stays in the upper portions of the lungs, where there is less O2, thereby making those breaths less efficient.