Everyone enters into this world with an inhale and exits with an exhale. It is the bridge that exists between life and death. With the combination of our inhale and exhale we live and without it, we die. Nonetheless the majority of people today do not know how to breathe and enjoy the sensations and benefits that a full and complete breath offers. The majority of us have forgotten how to breathe correctly due to bad posture habits and/or stress.
When we breathe an incomplete or shallow breath the results can be digestion problems, skin problems, anxiety, stress, depression, unexplainable aches and pain, as well as difficulties in thinking clearly, sleeping, high blood pressure, weak immune system as well as struggling with low levels of energy.
Thankfully, breathing a full and complete breath is an easy thing to learn and enjoy. It just takes a bit of practice and awareness.
Why is it important to maintain a full and complete breath?
Oxygen is food for our brain and nervous system. We get this molecule with each inhale and we make space for more with each exhale. Getting this brain nutrition isn´t any more complicated than breathing in and breathing out. Nonetheless the depth of the inhale and exhale determines the quality and amount of nutrition we wish to offer our mind and body. The quality of each breath determines if we are well fed or underfed. Just think about what your life would be like if you ate and drank very little water for 1 day, 2 days…10 days? What would your levels of energy be like? How long would you live?
It is the same with your breath. If we do not breathe fully, bit by bit we cause our entire bio-neurological system to suffer and slowly die due to lack of oxygen nutrition.
What is a full and complete breath?
A full and complete breath uses all of the space we have inside our lungs for the inhale and releases all the air that is inside on the exhale. In order visualize this, think about 360 degrees of breath and notice the movement of the breath not just in the chest but also the belly and back.
Think about the lungs like a big balloon housed inside the ribcage. With each inhale see if you can feel the breath pressing out towards the sternum and down towards the belly button, to the left to the right underneath the armpits and to the back down towards the lumbar spine.
There is actually more space in the back of the lungs than in the front and so when we breathe fully and completely, we open the entire ribcage which can help to relieve shoulder and neck tension while at the same time giving a massage to the internal organs and the spine.
What is the function of breath in the practice of Hatha Yoga?
When we breathe consciously and fully we are able to use the power of our breath to help us correctly execute the poses and enjoy all the benefits that they offer. With each breath we affect all the different levels of our body-from the bone to the skin, from nerves to cell and cell to the very atom. Various forms of Hatha Yoga poses target different aspects of each of those levels.
Each breath acts a bridge between the form and intention of each pose.
When practicing Yoga try and visualize an expansion with each inhale not just in the lungs but also throughout all the systems of the body. With each exhale allow that expansion of muscle bone and cell to then sink into that newly created space created by the inhale.
Often times when we practice a pose it is easy to forget to breathe, especially if we are in a difficult pose but if we bring our intention into the breath and direct it to those points of resistance and learn to accept and then let go of those sensations with our breath and awareness, we are able to start to observe how the body and mind change. When we start to observe and let go of the resistance that exists in mind and body during our practice via the bridge of breath, that is when we really start to enjoy the process of Yoga not just the end result and deep relaxation of Savasana.
How to achieve a full and complete breath?
Yoga Postures (Asanas)
All the poses of Hatha Yoga have the purpose and goal to help us sit comfortably in meditation while maintaining a deep and full breath. As I often mention in all of my blog posts, Yoga is all about connections and it is an error to disconnect one pose or one part of the body from the other. Nonetheless I will highlight some specific poses that work directly with the ribcage, diaphragm and consequently the lungs and breath.
Poses like Ustrasana (Camel Pose) work directly with the ribcage and the lungs housed inside. In this pose one should focus on lifting the sternum up to the sky, the shoulder blades down away from the ears, in towards the spine and bringing the breath to space below the sternum and xyphoid process more than simply leaning backwards. Think of it as an extension UP and then back. Keep the legs strong to lift out of the pelvis. In this way you are able to start opening the chest while working with the vagus nerve and protecting the lumbar spine.
Parighasana (Gate Pose) is another excellent pose to help increase space for the breath because the lateral flexion opens the space between the pelvis and the ribcage as well as between each rib. Bring the breath towards the side with the bent knee thinking about pressing the breath out through the ribs and skin along the sideline. Be careful to not lift the shoulders up to the ears, especially when lifting the arm up overhead. Doing this will hurt the neck. Also, keep the legs and gluts active to allow you to align the spine extend out of the pelvis and protect the lumbar spine.
Forward folds allow space to be created between the shoulder blades if the intention of the breath is brought to the back. The extension forward separates the ribcage from pelvis allowing more room for the diaphragm. To avoid compression of the spine, it is important to keep the lumbar spine extended and avoid curving it. If you are doing a forward fold on the ground, sitting over a few blankets or blocks with the sit bones firmly placed on them (not tucked forward) can help in achieving the full benefits of these poses while avoiding injury to the lumbar.
These are just some examples of the poses that can help you breathe better while activating the vagus nerve. However, it is also important to work with the pelvis to maintain the space in the ribcage and along the torso. To understand this connection between pelvis, posture and breath, you can read more here.
Pranayama is a way to maintain control and increase this vital energy via breath exercises. One can say that the postures of Hatha Yoga prepare the body for Pranayama and Pranayama is preparation for meditation. There are many different ways to practice Pranayama. All the various forms help us to become more aware of the movement of breath so that we are more and more capable of extending the inhale and exhale via both nostrils to maintain a balanced breath- allowing us even access to both parts of the brain. I have already written a blog highlighting some different forms of Pranayama with pictures and explanations. If you would like to learn more about the different forms of Pranayama, Kriyas, Bandhas and their benefits, you can visit this page.
Yamuna Body Rolling (YBR)
I love the tangible logic behind the routines and techniques of Yamuna Body Rolling. Due to the pressure of a ball in specific points throughout the body it becomes easier to open and release blocks within the body as well as become aware of the importance and movement of breath than with Yoga poses alone.
Stand Tall: Posture Workshop
YBR offers a way to enter the body with greater depth and awareness since the balls are something that one can feel and the breath is subtle and intangible. Combining YBR breath routines with Yoga asanas is a way to quickly increase lung capacity, relieve neck and shoulder pain and make Hatha Yoga poses and pranayama more accessible and enjoyable. I invite you to experience the difference yourself by signing up for one of the Good Yoga workshops centered on either the pelvis, neck & shoulders and/or breath…or all three!
As mentioned at the beginning, the benefits that one enjoys living a life with a full and complete breath are expansive and positive.
The lungs form a part of the digestive system and for that reason they not only help us with the ingestion of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide but a full and complete breath offers and massage for all of the internal organs and spine. This can manifest in less digestive problems, more energy, better skin, lower blood pressure as well as activation of the vagus nerve which influences parasympathetic activity which lowers levels of stress and anxiety, can improve quality of sleep, offer an ability to think with greater clarity and move with better coordination.
When we integrate the habit of breathing during our asana practice, especially during the more difficult poses, this habit can be transferred into our daily life. When confronted with a stressful situation we have a greater capacity to use our breath to center us in our pre-frontal cortex, and act with logic rather than reacting from a place of fear or instinct (link here).
The connections that exist between mind and body, between each muscle, bone and cell are incredible and vital. The breath acts like a bridge between each of these connections. So with a full and complete inhale and a full and complete exhale we are offering ourselves an opportunity to enjoy and thrive a full and complete life within and between each of these connections.
If you are interested in enjoying a full and complete breath don´t wait to reserve your place in the upcoming Good Yoga Breath workshop the 7th of June 2018 where Yamuna Body Rolling and Hatha Yoga (Asanas, Kriyas, Bandas, Pranayama) tecniques will be used to help open up the entire ribcage to alleviate neck and shoulder pain, clean the respiratory system, activate deep core muscles like the pelvic floor and increase lung capacity by removing blocks from the ilias soas and diaphram so that you can enjoy all the benefits that a full and complete breath can bring.
Change how you think, move and feel in mind and body from the inside out.
March/April 2019 Yoga Yamuna Series of Workshops
Don´t miss this great oppurtunity to learn from the great teacher and healer, Norma Goodrick of Core Focus. Norma is certified in Pilates, Yoga, Yamuna Body Rolling,Yamuna Body Logic and has more than 20 years of international exerience integrating these disciplines into her work as both private practioner and group teacher.
Working with her daughter, Michelle Goodrick of Good Yoga, both will teach how to take care of oneself, reduce and remove chronic pain or tightness from your feet to the top of the skull in the workshops of Yamuna and Yoga: Integrated Techniques for Wellness. In each workshop series Michelle and Norma will guide students in the work of Yamuna Body Rolling and then take them through various Hatha Yoga poses to stregthen the mind-body connection of what it feels like to be aligned and move without pain and with ease.
Good Yoga + Core Focus Técnicas Integradas 2015
Integrated Techniques for Wellness Program 2019: 23, 30 of march/ 6 of april
23 of March: Feet to Pelvis: Our base of mobility depends on how the feet and pelvis function. The pelvis is the point of support and fulcrum of movement for the entire body. From the there the spine lengthens upwards and the legs extend downward. If there is misalignement or tightness in this area the rest of the body structure will also suffer. Furthermore, misalignment in the feet will translate upwards into misalignment around the ankles, knees and into the pelvis. In this series of workshops Good Yoga and Core Focus will teach how to release tensions around the pelvis, the legs, sitbones and the iliapoas as well as basic foot care and alignment that will translate along the chain of movement thoughout the whole body, aligning misalignment so that you can feel again the joy of movement. 11:00 – 14.30
Tabla de cadera: Yamuna Body Rolling
23 of March: Shoulders, neck and skull: The majority of neck tension and pain begins with its connection to the shoulders and their connection to the thoracic spine. A lack of space and alignment in this area often results in a weak or collapsed sternum and rounded shoulders. Due to this closed structure, those who hold this often experience shallow, quick breathing instead of a full complete breath. A full breath is not only important for levels of vitality and energy, it also works to massage and support the entire thoracic spine in 360 degrees from the inside out. Learn how to release tension of the neck, increase shoulder flexibility while improving overall lung capacity, energy levels and posture via the the guided pressure of Yamuna Body Rolling and the aligned postures of Hatha Yoga 17:00 – 20:00
30 of March: The pelvic floor, abnominals and your breath: Move from your core.
The center of our body affects each part of our health: weakness and tension in this area can cause problems of the spine as well as issues connected with internal organ funcion. Opening and strengthening your core can relieve and correct problems associated with scoliosis, lumbalgia as well as discomfort associated with menstruation and menopause. It is also great for improving digestion, incontinence and fertility. As well as reducing levels of anxiety and stress. Working around the diagphram both releases emotional tension often held in this area as well as increasing lung capacity. Learn how to use the pressure and traction of Yamuna Body Rolling combined with postures and practices of Hatha Yoga to heal and strengthen yourself from the inside out. 11:00 – 14:30
6 of Aprill: Detailed foot and hand work:
There are very few forms of exercise that address the problems in our feet and hands, but this work is essential because our feet and hands are at the end of our neuromuscular, circulatory and energetic systems. The degeneration in the feet and hands can result in more than arthritis and carpel tunnel syndrome. Weakness and tension here can translate in pain and discomfort further up the chain in the legs, hips and spine as well as the joints in the arms up into the neck and shoulders. It is for this reason that Yamuna Zake developed Yamuna´s Foot Fitness and Hand Fitness.
The feet: Our feet are the base of our movement, and problems in our feet can cause problems further up the muscle chain in the ankles, knees, hips right up into the spine. Learning how to align, strengthen and release points of tension in the feet will result in better alignment, balance and movment throughout the entire body.
The hands: Our hands are very similar in design to our feet. Problems in the hands can result in problems and pain further up in the wrists, shoulders and neck. One can see a real life photo of this connection in Norma Goodrick herself, here. These types of problems are very common among people who work a lot with their hands`. It is becoming more and more common in the general population as the communication in our modern and technological world depends on our hands ability to use a keyboard or touch screen. This continous and repetitive use on a daily basis can result in chronic pain.
Movment of the legs and hips begin in the feet, and movment in the neck and shoulders begin in the hands. Feel and enjoy the release of this connection from the feet up through the spine and from the hands into the shoulders and neck in our your own body and learn how to maintain healthy, happy hands and feet for life. 11:00 – 14:00
It doesn´t matter if your are an experienced or inexperienced student of Yoga or Yamuna Body Rolling. You will not want to miss this great chance that happens just once a year-to learn from Norma Goodrick of Core Focus and her daughter Michelle Goodrick of GoodYoga in the fully equiped Center of Yoga y Bienestar Sevilla.