The Yoga Balancing Breath

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The object of the Balancing Breath is to develop a conscious control of your breathing. Try this simple breathing technique when you feel tired or overwhelmed or when you just want to clear your head for a moment. The Balancing Breath is similar to the Complete Breath (which we cover earlier in this chapter), except that you inhale and exhale to a count of four instead of exhaling for a longer period of time.

Follow these steps to practice a Balancing Breath:

1. Sit, lie down, or stand with your shoulders, mouth, and jaw relaxed. Your choice: Gaze softly straight ahead or close your eyes. Make sure your back is erect but not rigid.

2. To a count of four, slowly inhale through your nose. Feel your breath expanding into your abdomen, mid-body (the diaphragm area), and upper chest. Without forcing, engage and gently fill your lungs to their full capacity.

3. To a count of four, exhale slowly through your nose, drawing your abdomen gently in and up to help send the breath smoothly out. Although your breath empties from your lungs, focus on releasing it first with your abdomen, and then with your diaphragm, and then with your upper chest. Emit all the air from your lungs.

Practice the Balancing Breath six to ten times — inhaling to a count of four and exhaling to a count of four — pause to rest for a moment, and then do another six to ten Balancing Breaths.

As you begin to perfect the Balancing Breath, consider inhaling to eight counts and exhaling to eight counts.

You can also inhale for four counts, hold the inhalation very softly for four counts, and then exhale completely for four counts. Try to find a rhythm as you do this variation on the Balancing Breath. Make your breath roll in like a wave; hold softly so your lungs can drink in the oxygen; and gently exhale all the air.

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