Yogic breathing: pranayama
Pranayama is the fundamental technique for a qualitative breathing in the practice of Yoga is the complete yogic breathing, which consists of using the maximum lung and diaphragmatic capacity of the body, through slow, deep, prolonged and homogeneous breathing. That means that the passage of air is managed little by little.
The movement that produces the expansion of the lungs is, in addition to horizontal, vertical. This is due to a greater displacement of the diaphragm (it can reach three or four centimeters, when in normal breathing it is approximately one).
The vertical movement of the diaphragm favors gas exchange in the lungs due to a greater extension of the pulmonary alveoli. And a greater range of movement of the diaphragm translates into slow, calm breathing. Complete yogic breathing is practiced first in three phases and then continuously. The beads, which are called matras, follow the average rhythm of the heartbeat (or the second hand of the clock) during the pranayama.
Lie on your back comfortably, with your legs wider than the hips, with your arms relaxed next to your torso, with the neck elongated without tension. Surrender the body to gravity. Close your eyes. Become aware of how your natural breathing occurs.
Bring your hands to your abdomen and lower abdomen. You can form a triangle by bringing your thumbs and index fingers together. Focus all your attention on that area to breathe only there. Inhale in three matras. Allow the air to inflate your abdomen like a balloon and leave a little space so you don’t feel uncomfortable. Exhale into three matras and empty completely.
Bring the hands to the ribs, intercostal area, the thumbs on the sides and the rest of the fingers in front. She concentrates all her attention only there and only there she breathes. Inhale in three matras and allow the ribs to widen; again leaving a little space not to force. Exhale into three matras; the ribs return to their place.
Bring your hands to your collarbones, arms folded like an Egyptian mummy. Her arms are still relaxed. She concentrates all her attention there and breathes only in that area. She inhales in two matras, her clavicles rising slightly. Exhale in two matras, the clavicles return to the site of it.
Repeat several times in each phase and in that order. Assimilate what each one reveals to you during the pranayama.
Leave your arms at the sides of your torso. Integrate the three phases now in a single inhalation, administering it. The accounts are progressively reduced and increased according to your capacity. Inhale the first two matras in the abdomen, pause for a second and follow the next two of that same inhalation in the intercostal area, pause for a second and finish the last matra in the clavicles. Five matras in total. Exhale for a count of six.
Repeat several cycles. Perhaps you will see after a while of practice that the matras can increase to 3-3-2. If not, continue on the previous account.
And now it integrates the accounts continuously in the pranayama. Try five matras in a row but administered, inhaling first in the abdomen, then in the ribs and lastly in the clavicles, and exhale calmly in six matras. Repeat several times. The account can be progressively increased as well, according to your capacity.
The body remains relaxed throughout the entire process. With constant practice, you can go a step further: bring the navel slightly in to stop inflating the abdomen and feel how the air goes to the sides and, even, to the lumbar back.
Once the technique is assimilated with constant practice, this way of breathing will become natural during a whole session of Yoga. The breath guiding the movement to enter and exit the asana and to hold it becomes yogic. And if we persevere, that way of breathing will also become natural throughout life.