Often, when I start a yoga class, I chant “OM”. After a long “OOOOOMMMMMM”, sometimes my new students ask me how on earth do you make your OM last that long?!! Taking a full inhale, depends on how well you can exhale. Taking a full inhale involves a complex group of muscles, but the main driver for that lengthy inhale depends on a muscle called the diaphragm. The diaphragm is an upside down umbrella shaped sheet of muscle that separates the upper half of the body to the lower half. This muscle attaches to itself, which is unique.
There are many yogic techniques that strengthen the diaphragm, but I would like to talk specifically about the sun salute or suyra namaskar. This ancient practice of worshiping the sun, the source of all life on the planet, works every part of your body, makes your spine flexible, and tones all major muscles of the body. What makes this practice even more healthy is when ujjayi (audible sounding breath, done through the nose) breathing is added to each movement as in Ashtanga Yoga.
In the Ashtanga yoga method, you learn the sun salutes with ujjayi breathing. For instance, when you raise your arms overhead, and take a breath in, the muscles surrounding the lungs, arms chest, and even neck muscles open up and get longer, lengthening the inhale. When you fold forward, and bring your head towards your knees, the air is squeezed out of the lungs, assisting the body to get rid of carbon dioxide.
For every movement of a sun salute, there is either an inhale or an exhale. Each inhale is followed by an exhale, and in the beginning, we try to make the length of the breath equal. Since I’ve started yoga over 12 years ago, I’ve put a lot of sun salutes behind me, which naturally has lengthened my breath.
Would you like to learn how to breath the correct way in the sun salutes? I would highly suggest our teacher training program. You will have a firm foundation in breath control. It’s been my observation that many studios teach a variation of the sun salute, adding inhales/exhales, where technically there are none. The beauty of this practice lies in it’s simplicity of the Ashtanga practice.
After all, do you know what the yogi’s said? That our life was measured by a certain number of breaths. If that is really the case, I’m going to make each and every breath longer…..Long spine = long life.
See you on the mat,