Why You Should Listen To Your Breath for a Better Yoga Practice

Yoga breath practice benefits

Simply listening to your breath has surprising benefits both on and off your yoga mat…

How often do you just listen to yourself breathe? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably almost never.

Breath is a sign that we are alive. It is arguably the most important thing in the world to us – yet most of us never pay it any attention – at least not until we are on the yoga mat.

Becoming a Kundalini yoga enthusiast has made me more aware of my breath than ever before. I now notice more quickly when I’m short of it, as well as how deeply I can really breathe when I concentrate. I am aware of the power of my lungs, and when I have a cold, I am acutely aware of any impairment to my breathing, sometimes before it even happens.

Breath is almost literally life, and this is one reason why yoga focuses so much on this important element. If you have been tuning out during the breathing part of yoga class, you’re missing out!

Here are some of the important benefits you can gain in yoga (and in life), simply by listening to your breath:

In the practice of Yoga, sometimes we simply notice our breath without changing anything about it; other times, we consciously stretch the inhalation, the exhalation and the time in between them; or maybe we take “victorious breaths” (Ujjayi Pranayama) by stretching the breath and practicing a slight constriction of the glottis which produces a gentle hissing sound.

Listening to the sound of our own breath has several implications. First and foremost it is pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga… Pratyahara means “to withdraw the senses from the outer world.” Instead of looking outside, for instance at the neighbor’s mat and start comparing your posture with his/hers, pratyahara takes your attention inwardly, away from external stimuli. This is a valuable meditation aid.

Second, listening to our breath informs us about our attitude in the posture or in that particular situation. Have you ever paid attention to your breath when you were furious? Did you like the sound of your breath then? I guess not. At times when the breath sounds short, aggressive, heavy, we know there is something in the posture or in the situation that we need to correct to avoid unhelpful attitudes. Furthermore, adjusting our breathing by increasing our inhalation, we increase the amount of oxygen supplied to our bodies. Then, by increasing exhalation, we exhale more toxins of all kind, from the physical and environmental toxins (lead, nicotine,sulfur dioxide) to mental and emotional…

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