4 Square Breathing
This is also know as Alternate Nostril Breathing and is used to help to promote and train the body to breathe through the nose in the natural way we were intended. For nose breathers we may or not be aware that we take some air in one nostril at a time, switching every few inhales from one side to another. You may not be aware of this until your nose is blocked in one nostril when you have a head cold and periodically you feel like you have to breathe through your mouth. Alternate nostril practice is not only good to retrain the body to nose breathe but can help with a sinus headache.
Method of 4 Square breathing - Press one nostril down and inhale for the count of 4; Press down on both nostrils and hold the breath for a count of 4; Release the side you pressed down first and exhale for count of 4; Then block both nostrils for the count of 4; Inhale through this nostril for count of 4 ; Hold for 4; Exhale out the other nostril blocking the other side for 4; Hold both nostrils for 4 then inhale through this nostril for 4. Repeat this pattern for 4 minutes. You can use your thumb and first finger to help with the alternating sides.
Lions breath is a fun practice to help with exhaling fully all the air in the bottom of the lungs and to encourage a deeper fully inhale. In Yoga we use this breath to help wake up the body and energize it for our practice but you can use this breathing technique anytime you are feeling sluggish or to warm the body when cold. There is some evidence that this form of breathing releases stress and reduces blood pressure
Lion Breath Technique - On hands and knees take a deep belly breath, hold for a few heart beats and then force the air out your mouth while extending out your tongue as far as you can and rolling your eyes upward. Keep pushing air out until there is nothing left then inhale deeply through the nose and repeat 4 times more. Have fun making a noise on the exhale and seeing how far that tongue will hang out while doing it.
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Breathing is something we take for granted everyday, every breath but is so important not only to supply oxygen to the body but to keep the organs massaged and healthy. How we breath is the key to getting the most from not only your health but when it comes to Yoga it is important to help you get in and out of the Asanas (postures) to get the most from the stretch. Students are always amazed at how much deeper they can go in the practice just by timing the inhale and exhale with the movement into the Asana.
The Diaphragm is the muscle we must control to maximize our ability to fill the lungs completely. Without the diaphragm we wouldn't be able to take an inhale or exhale so keeping this muscle in good form is very important but many factors interfere with the diaphragm moving easily and therefore inhibiting our ability to take a deep breath every time. Some factors that effect the movement of the diaphragm are body weight, inactivity, and smoking but the number one reason is not taking a deep enough breath or just breathing incorrectly.
So what is the best way to breathe? When we were babies we knew how to breathe. Watch a new born or even small child breathe, their belly pushes out as they inhale and in as they breathe out. This form of breathing is called Bellows breath and is the way we were meant to breathe.
Each time we push the belly out it drops the diaphragm down and this action pulls air into the lungs filling them completely. When we exhale and assist in pushing our diaphragm up by pulling the abdomen in and up we create a vacuum that will automatically pull air in when the abdomen is pushed out again.
It's important to get back to this way of breathing not only for your maximum oxygen intake but to keep your lungs healthy and prevent bacteria from forming in the unused areas of the lungs.
How to do the Bellows Breath ( Our Natural way to Breathe)
Inhale through the nose and push your belly our as you do. Breathe out through the Nose and pull your navel in and then up to force out all the air. Repeat for every Breath!