5 Reasons to Focus More on Breathing in Yoga

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What makes yoga different than just your average stretch class, is the emphasis on the breathing. In yoga we breathe in and out through the nose using deep, calm, controlled inhalations and exhalations. This type of breathing calms the parasympathetic nervous system and allows us to go deeper in to every stretch. It also aids in stress reduction, lower blood pressure, better coping skills and a happier disposition in general. When we learn to breathe fully, we take advantage of every waking moment and stay in the present which makes us realize how lucky we are to be alive! Here are 5 reasons to make sure you stay focused on your breath during your yoga practice.

1. You’ll go deeper in to every pose

When you can tap in to your breath during a stretch, it allows you to melt in to the pose. Our initial reaction when something is stiff or tight or uncomfortable, is to hold our breath. Yoga teaches us to keep breathing when the discomfort kicks in and go past it until we find a deeper stretch. Over time we learn to distinguish discomfort from pain; and when it’s just a little uncomfortable, we can tap in to our yogic breathing and move forward. If it’s truly painful, our breath awareness reminds us to back off and not injure ourselves.

2. You’ll find a state of zen

If we just go through the motions in yoga class without truly paying attention to the breath, we lose out on the meditative aspect of yoga. Hatha yoga or yoga that combines breath with movement is like meditation in action. Connecting each movement with our breath gives us a chance to truly stay present and forget about everything else on our to do list. Watching the breath in a held position allows us to stay present when we are still which makes it easier when we do a formal seated meditation practice as well.

3. You’ll stay balanced

The second we stop concentrating on our breath is when we usually fall out of a balancing posture. The breath is key when it comes to holding a pose on our feet or hands. From tree pose to handstand, when we are breathing, it’s so much easier to stay balanced. The breath gives us a point of focus and allows us to find our center without over muscling in the pose.

4. You’ll stay connected to your self

Only you can breath for you and no one else can. The beauty of a yoga practice is tapping in to your own special self and using your breath to get to know your self better. Our breath is our potential and once we discover how magical it can be, it’s amazing. The deeper you breath, the more alive you’ll feel. The breath allows you to be more in touch with your true gut instinct and inner teacher. It’s an incredible tool that can be used on and off the mat.

5. You’ll let go easier in corpse pose

And also get a better night’s sleep! Deep, focused breathing allows our body to release; and once we melt in to a resting state and stop focusing on the breath, the body completely lets go. At the end of every yoga practice we take a 5 to 10 minute relaxation where we just lie still and let the breath breathe for us. After concentrating on the breath throughout the practice, once you lie still, you’ll feel the immediate affects and let your body breath naturally. It’s an amazing process and so rewarding.

Take the time to connect with your breath every day and especially during your yoga practice; you will feel better, sleep better, find a more natural organic energy, and tap in to a deeper potential you never realized you had!

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Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She’s also a new mom to her son Timothy, a contributing editor at Health, a brand ambassador for C9 by Target, and has appeared frequently on television.