The Full Yogic Breath is the most basic pranayama, reminding us that, in order to breathe correctly, we need to engage the diaphragm as well as the intercostal muscles in the chest. When we inhale, the abdomen should bulge outwards and the chest will expand forwards, upwards and sideways. Both relax and return to their original shape when we exhale.
Breathing like this helps to:
- Increase our lung capacity.
- Give more time for exchange of gases between the lungs and our bloodstream, resulting in cleaner and richer blood that benefits every cell in the body.
- Calm down the nervous system and relax our mind.
- Give the heart, digestive and abdominal organs a gentle stimulation.
- Sit in meditation posture, with the spine held upright, and the mouth closed. Keep the chin parallel to the floor, the shoulders relaxed, the hands on the knees, or the lap, with the palms turned up.
- To ensure you are engaging the diaphragm as well as the intercostal muscles:
- Place one hand on the abdomen and the other on the chest.
- Focus on breathing just “into the belly”, so that the bottom hand makes most of the movement: it moves forwards as you breathe in and retracts back when you breathe out. There should be minimal movement in the top hand.
- Then change the focus to the chest so that the top hand makes most of the movement: forwards when you breathe in and returns back when you breathe out. This time there should be minimal movement in the bottom hand.
- When you have can comfortably isolate the abdominal and chest movements, then combine them into the Full Yogic Breath. Start at the bottom of the abdomen and roll the breath up smoothly as you inhale; then let the shoulders relax as you exhale and encourage the belly to be pulled in towards the spine to complete the exhalation.
- When you are confident that you are engaging both areas, then you can place the hands on the knees or lap and continue the practice.
- Breathe like this for 6 – 12 breaths, filling and emptying your lungs as much as you can without straining.
- To finish, allow the breathing to return to normal and observe how you are feeling for a few moments before opening your eyes. Remain in the state of calmness for as long as you can after coming out.