Everything you do begins with your breath. It’s the first thing you lose, the first thing you seek, and the first and easiest thing you can change. That’s why we always start class by settling down and then up setting our breath for practice.
When we inhale deeply, our chest, ribs, and belly expand. It’s what we cue when we talk about the three-part breath. To help that along, you’ll often hear us say:
“widen your collar bones”“lift your sternum”“expand your ribcage”“breathe into your belly”
The reason we do this is to give the lungs more room to expand in all dimensions. But since there isn’t too much room in the chest area, it’s the belly’s role to make that space. So that your diaphragm can move downwards, your belly has to expand outwards.
When we exhale fully, our chest sinks down, the ribs close in a little bit, and the diaphragm moves upwards, pushing air out of the lungs. We use our belly to make that happen. You’ll often hear us saying:
“draw your belly in and up”“press your navel to your spine”“knit your rib cage in”
As you can see, the movement of the diaphragm is essential to getting the deep full breaths and it’s the belly that helps move the diaphragm up and down. This “belly breathing” is a technique used in therapy and meditation to calm the mind, steady body, and improve focus.
When she isn’t drawing body parts, you can find Tami Ledesma teaching Vinyasa, FNR, Gentle Flow, and Pre-Natal yoga at Urban Ashram, or pulsing among her students at Barre3. Follow her asana adventures on Instagram at @movewithtami.