D&C Breath by Jamie Wiewiora


Are you breathing?

“Are you breathing?” I frequently ask this question in my yoga classes. Of course having a room filled with living and breathing students is ideal – but living and breathing students with breath awareness is better! Believe it or not, there are correct breathing techniques and incorrect breathing techniques, especially while challenging your body physically. When done properly, each inhale will increase your lung capacity thereby providing more oxygen to be absorbed by the blood. When the blood is well nourished with oxygen, the inner organs are supplied with new energy and can cleanse themselves. Deep, mindful breathing also calms the nervous system. By extending the length of your exhale you begin to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which induces a sense of calm over the mind and the body. Whether you are stretching and restoring your muscles in my yoga class or sculpting your abs and toning thighs in your core-strengthening class, bringing awareness to your breath will not only help to focus your mind but will allow you to purposefully guide your breath as needed for a more productive workout. Think of it as a breathing meditation… in yogic philosophy known as Pranayama.

Alternatively, taking deeper breaths on your inhale and shortening the exhale creates a hyper state of mind or anxious sensation throughout the body as with the “fight or flight” response when we sense trouble. Although in both instances you are in fact breathing, one method is indeed more productive than the other taking into consideration the situation. One last breathing technique I observe frequently in my classes is the “holding and turning blue” method. This method is far less successful than the previous two methods discussed above – as ceasing oxygen to the blood tends to result in fainting. In all seriousness, breathing techniques are like any other physical activity, there is a learning process and it takes time. The first step is to check in with yourself… are you breathing?

“Our breath is constantly rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, entering and leaving our bodies. Full body breathing is an extraordinary symphony of both powerful and subtle movements that massage our internal organs, oscillate our joints, and alternately tone and release all the muscles in the body. It is a full participation with life.” – Donna Farhi