I remind my yoga students to breathe. I’m always working on alignment, working on furthering their stretch and focusing on certain muscles to grow stronger but I return again and again to the breath. In hatha yoga, it’s the foundation everything else is built on.
In any pose at any time you should be able to breathe as fully as the pose will allow. If the pose is compressing your ribs so can’t take a full 100% breath then you breathe as well as you can with the space you do have. Poise and grace in position is what we’re working towards. If you can breathe steadily and calmly through a full class you’re well on your way to being able to sit and meditate.
The breath has profound effects on mood and outlook. Its ability to change one’s state of mind is well known in yoga. Older texts on pranayama usually start with a warning, “Danger! The exercises in this book can lead to arrythmia, anxiety, depression and eventually death…” not exactly something you want to play around with. Certainly at its edges there can be danger but for most the beginning of working with breathing is safe. I’ve been teaching it to seniors at a nursing home for a year.
The full range of changes chemically and biologically escape me. Let’s know that breathing in helps you take in more oxygen and exhaling allows you to rid the body of carbon dioxide. If we strengthen the muscles that help you breathe, you do so more efficiently even when at rest. Same as your bicep and a curl. The stronger it is the more it allows you to lift something with less exertion.
Breathe! You’ll live longer and with sharper focus.