Key 2 reveals the value of effective breathing and shows us how to achieve it.
The breath: gateway to vitality
At birth, the breath is the first affirmation that we are alive, and our last exhalation indicates the end of life. During the lifetime in-between, breathing never ceases; it constantly channels life force into the body, deeply influencing the quality of our lives, our energy levels, states of mind and consciousness.
The breath fuels our very existence. While it is possible to go without water and food for a substantial amount of time, we cannot live for more than a few minutes without breathing.
How to learn Key 2 Effective breathing
Breathing seems so natural and instinctive, it might seem a bit silly to have to learn how to do it. But, precisely because it is so fundamental, yogis have investigated its power for eons and uncovered how central the breath is to living a vital and healthy life.
Awareness plays the biggest role in correcting harmful habits; when we notice that we are breathing shallowly or unevenly, we can often consciously begin breathing more deeply and evenly, and almost immediately feel the body return to a more natural breathing rhythm. Then, we can enjoy a tremendous and sustainable boost to well-being.
In yoga, both the inhalation and exhalation are, with some exceptions, through the nostrils; the mouth remains closed.
The main method of breathing in yoga, and an exceptionally effective breathing technique, is called the ujiaja breath. It is achieved by gently restricting the flow of air at the back of the throat. It helps if you slightly drop the chin, raise the crown and lengthen the back of the neck. This position also assists the development of good posture (see diagram at posture).
The resulting softly sibilant and slightly chesty sound helps the breather to monitor the length and ease of the inhalation and the exhalation. Monitoring the breath in this way guides and draws us deep into the practice of breathing.
Audio: learn effective breathing (20 minutes)
The amazing benefits and potential of efficient breathing
Developing an awareness of the power and value of the breath is essential to effective yoga because effective breathing boosts our physical power and stamina. An efficient intake of oxygen delivers fresh energy to the entire body and all its systems, while helping to keep the mind alert.
Each breath also helps to distribute energy throughout the body, and each exhalation cleanses the system. And because the breath, physiology, mind and emotions are so interconnected, learning to control the breath can facilitate relaxation, mental clarity, and equanimity.
Deep breathing, that uses the full capacity of the lungs and the muscles of the trunk can help to tone the muscle groups that support the skeleton, thus enhancing the mobility of the spine, shoulders and hips. Strong abdominal muscles also support the internal organs, preventing them from sagging or misaligning in relation to our energy meridians.
The Holistic Five Keys tip:
Key 2 Effective breathing
The second principle is that good breathing and good posture are interdependent. The First Key is Posture, as relaxed uprightness is a prerequisite for effective breathing. Learning to breathe well gives us an awareness of good posture, and good posture facilitates healthy breathing. The integration of breath and posture naturally ensures their holistic and interdependent development. Good posture and effective breathing makes meditation easier, and it is an essential component of Key 5, Mindfulness. The combination of all the keys naturaly facilitates stress release.
Return to the Introduction to the Five Keys to Well-being