In daily life, we rarely—if ever—breathe to the full extent of our lungs' capability. That means we don't utilize fully our body's capacity to absorb oxygen. Our yoga practice helps by teaching us to breathe more deeply. As we use more of our lungs to breathe in class, we change the way our body breathes outside of class. Processing oxygen more efficiently makes us more fit and also more smart!
Here's a breathing practice you can try to experience the principle of deep breathing in action:
Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Relax your belly as you inhale so you can completely fill your lungs. Breathe in as much as you can and then stop, relax, and evaluate. Can you breathe in just a little more? Are you surprised by how deeply you can breathe?
Bringing air down into the lower portion of the lungs, where oxygen exchange is most efficient, has a wide range of beneficial effects on body and mind. It slows your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, decreases your blood pressure, eases anxiety, and calms your mind. Abdominal, or belly, breathing also offers a sense of control over your body and emotions that is extremely therapeutic.