The Yoga Complete Breath

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The Complete Breath is a wonderful breath to live your life with — it’s the basis of all other breathing techniques and is at the very heart of yoga-with weights exercises. The Complete Breath engages your entire respiratory system. Besides raising and gently opening your collarbone and rib cage area, you engage your abdomen evenly and activate your diaphragm naturally, thus creating a full and deep breath.

The Complete Breath is a great way to relieve tension and stress. It improves the quantity and quality of the oxygen that enters your body. It helps your body find its balance and energy to live life. In times of stress, the Complete Breath helps to combat shortness of breath and calm your nervous system. Practice the Complete Breath when you feel angry, impatient, or nervous.

Ideally, you should inhale and exhale six times per minute when using the Complete Breath. Breathing through your nostrils, you inhale four to six counts at minimum, and you exhale six to ten counts at minimum. Of course, this is the ideal, but if you’re new to yoga with weights, inhale as many counts as you can without straining, and try to reach the four- to six-count minimum.

Follow these steps to perform the Complete Breath:

While sitting, lying down, or standing, relax your shoulders and gaze straight ahead or close your eyes. Your mouth and jaw should be relaxed, your windpipe should feel open, and your chin should be pointing gently down. Make sure your back is erect but not rigid.

Inhaling slowly through your nose, feel your abdomen, your mid-body (the diaphragm area), and your upper chest gently expand until you fill your lungs to capacity. Notice the breathing sensation everywhere, but especially in your upper chest first. Feel your diaphragm moving calmly. Allow your ribs and chest to remain soft, open, and relaxed.

Exhaling slowly through your nose, gently engage your abdomen. Feel your body and your diaphragm gently coming back to center as you empty your lungs.

Practice the Complete Breath ten times, inhaling to a count of four and exhaling to a count of six.

Try taking the Complete Breath a step further by expanding your abdomen as you inhale and feeling your rib cage expand as you fill your lungs to the brim with air, as if you’re inflating a balloon. Begin to exhale by drawing your belly in and up. Feel the sides of your ribs pressing or squeezing back in like a bellows or accordion as you empty your lungs and allow your chest to relax. Continue to breathe in this fashion for a minute or two.

Never force your lungs to inhale or expel air. Feel your lungs filling evenly and calmly in all directions — up, down, into each side, forward, and back. As you take Complete Breaths, see whether, by directing your attention there, you can inflate and awaken sensations in the sides and back of your body as well as in the front of your body. Practice in each area by isolating it first with your mind and then directing your breath into each area for one, two, or three breaths.

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