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Fourth Limb of Yoga - PRANAYAMA

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well, you will live long on earth.”

Sanskrit proverb

If you have ever been to a yoga class, you almost undoubtedly have heard the instructor say “Inhale…..Exhale”.  This brings us to the fourth limb of yoga, pranayama.  This can loosely be translated as breath control or to control the breath.  A more literal translation is life force extension.  Many yogis believe that you can possibly extend your life with breath control, as breath revitalizes the body.  While breathing is as natural as our heart beating, paying attention and breathing purposely is a bit different.    

Pranayama is the process of understanding and utilizing the wisdom of the breath.  Multiple studies have shown that practicing deep breathing (on or off the mat) will calm the nervous system as well as the mind.  By practicing deep breathing, you can experience less physical stress and less mental white noise. By purposely evening out our breathing patterns, or making our exhales slightly longer than our inhales (think of the 4-7-8 technique), studies have shown people experience a reduction in anxiety, help falling asleep, and a calmness of mind.  Patanjali instructs that the practitioner should regulate the inhalations, exhalations, and retentions of the breath in a cyclical manner.  This helps prepare one for meditation and deeper introspection to ground yourself and to understand the value of deep contemplation.  Practicing the fourth limb of yoga, pranayama, can be done in groups such as meditation or yoga classes or done alone.  Either way you decide to practice, as you breathe deeply in and then exhale slowly out, you are more inclined to gain a better understanding of your body and a deepening awareness.

So, breathing during yoga? How to and what?  Remember that coordinating your breath with Krista’s instruction can be confusing but it is more of a gentle reminder to keep breathing through the movement or asanas.  As a very general rule of thumb, try to inhale as you open the chest up or expand the front of the body.  Try to exhale as you bend forward. Nose or mouth?  In general and not just yoga, you should try to breathe through your nose.  Your nose is a natural filter for air.  It warms the air you breathe in and also protects you from billions of particles of foreign matter every single day.  To be honest, it really is what is most comfortable for you in the moment.  

A last bit of information before you schedule your next yoga class at Aligned with Green Wellness.  There are actually nine yogic breathing practices or techniques.  For more information on this keep reading in the upcoming weeks!  And as always, if you have any questions or would like to take a yoga or pilates class you can reach out to Krista on her website,, or follow her on Instagram and/or Facebook.

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